Two Classics – Absurd and Funny

I got some good news – my OUT TV Blog is back at the end of the month and expanded even.

In the meantime.

 

Boeing Boeing by The Arts Club Theatre

What in earth would possess The Arts Club to program Boeing Boeing as part of their 49th theatre season. It is a door slamming sex-farce by French writer Marc Camoletti in 1960.

 

Bernard has three fiancés all of them are stewardesses with a different airline. He just has to manage their flight timetables and as long they don’t build speedier planes he can juggle them.

 

So why produce this fluffy and kind of sexist material? They likely did it because they have the cities best actors and a great director and ace production team.

 

Boeing Boeing is one of the funniest plays I have seen in ages.

 

The majority of the cast are best known for their dramatic work and to see then cut loose in broad comedy is, well inspiring. Kimberly Sustad plays the very American Gloria with a warm and sexy sense of entitlement and Moya O’ Connell is the passionate and temperamental Italian Gabriella. Just when you think the ladies could not get wilder the always-great Colleen Wheeler enters at the blunt and loud German Gretchen.
boeing-dress-134

What is lovely about these three actors and the thorough direction by David Mackay is that although they are broad, they are still appealing. You can see what attracted our protagonist Bernard to them. Lesser directors would just make then creatures of fun and leave out the romantic part that is needed to drive the story.

 

Speaking of Bernard – Jonathan Young is one of the cities best actors and as the cool and cocky man who would juggle three fiancés you really get that he loves them and wants what is best for all concern for as long as possible. One can only imagine how that character would likely be played in the 1960’s through 1990’s (and beyond) – a swinging bachelor more concerned with his own libido and needs, with superficial regard to the women in his life.

 

Things go wrong when his awkward and nerdy friend from Wisconsin arrives. Andrew Mcnee as Robert is hysterical. As the character goes from resourceful admirer to stressed out savior he starts crawling all over the set using big choices grounded in truth to punch the comedy situations in the throat. He is in each moment and his mounting horror, tinged with envy and lust and most of all kindness is the work of an accomplished actor.

 

In an already A-list cast the cherry on top is Nicola Lipman as the maid Berthe. She attacks the comedy from a completely different angle, deadpan and tossing her lines away she deservedly gets the final bow at the curtain call.

 

The sound track complied by Murray Price is all European 1960’s rock music that is buoyant and sassy. The set is all clean lines and austere apartment in France, wide-open spaces and sunken living room designed by Amir Ofek and the costumes by Nancy Bryant capture the time period without being parodies.

 

The whole show is treated with such respect and it would be good for comedy actors and directors to check out how it is possible to make bold choices that are rooted in truth, layered in needs and played in each moment with high stakes. How much funnier it can be when you bring the tools that are unusually only employed in dramatic work to a comedy.

 

Why did the Arts Club choose to do this show? They had the right team to pull it off with panache and make it a truly hysterical night out. So much fun!

 

 

Diversity Casting Tally Sheet 2013
Art holds a mirror up to our world, and in our Canadian society – in most urban centre the “visible minority” is at about 52% while most theatre (also found in most urban centers) is still all Caucasian. So here is a running total that will be updated with each show I see this year.

# of Plays            Total Actors                         # Diverse            Plays with Diverse Casting
18                           106                                            22                        7

 

Rhinoceros by UBC

Eugene Ionesco wrote this Theatre Of The Absurd play in 1959. A small provincial French town is stricken with a curse or plague as it’s citizens start turning into Rhinoceros. Our protagonist is Berenger a young man scolded for being a drinker and tardy and the only one who seems to be resistant.

 

The analogy is one of conformity particularly with religious or political movements.

 

The piece was written a long time ago in style that flashed brightly in the theatre lexicon but it died out as a movement just as quickly, Beckett’s Waiting for Godot is considered the best of the genre.

 

So the challenge to the director Chelsea Haberlin, in the MFA Directing Candidate at UBC is to find a way in for 21st Century audiences. She does this in the staging, using the Telus Studio Theatre and it’s tiny stage with audiences seated in three stories of balconies circling the stage. The feeling is we are judges or scientists watching the events unfold.

 

She also does this with getting some lovely performance from some of her student actors. Particularly Xander Williams as the Logician and Georgia Beatty as Daisy, they both bring nuance and charm. Joel Garner as friend Jean is full of weary bluster and he is the first person we see fully transform into a Rhino in a very fun scene.

rhinoceros-cast

 

I saw the show late in the run and it felt like the stakes were slipping. Sometimes actors, when they start to get into the groove of a show and start to get comfortable in the role they let that seep into the character as well. This may explain why some of the scenes felt languid particularly a late in the show scene between Dudard – a work colleague – and Berenger.

 

That combined with a repetitive plodding of the actors in the Rhino masks made the show drag out rather than ramp up. At first the movement was quite powerful and threatening but as it is repeated over and over again it loses potency and variety would have perhaps helped. At one point Daisy looks out the window and says with curiosity and longing how happy and playful the Rhino’s appear to be. But they are still plodding in the same stylized way they have been doing from the beginning of the play.

 

The students and their director had a great time and clearly dedicated a lot in mounting this challenging play. It was a great to see this script produced by such committed up and coming artists.

 

 

Diversity Casting Tally Sheet 2013
Art holds a mirror up to our world, and in our Canadian society – in most urban centre the “visible minority” is at about 52% while most theatre (also found in most urban centers) is still all Caucasian. So here is a running total that will be updated with each show I see this year.

# of Plays            Total Actors                         # Diverse            Plays with Diverse Casting
19                             128                                       26                        8

 

 

I did not know there was a movie version made of the play starring Gene Wilder.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tYgR1Pb-lk4

 

David C. Jones
Culture Vulture

 

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