Laughter and romance in “Boeing Boeing”

For Parisian architect Bernard, in the play “Boeing-Boeing,” life could not be better. With a successful career, luxurious apartment, well taken care of by his salty French maid Bertha and his three stewardess fiances. Bernard is living an ideal bachelor life.

“Its really a fun play with lots of action,” director Ed Strum, said.

Opening weekend for “Boeing-Boeing” is Oct. 4 and 5, with shows beginning at 7:30 p.m. at the San Juan Community Theatre. Curtain rises at 7:30 p.m., Oct. 10-12 and 17-19, and at 2 p.m., Oct. 6, 13 and 20. Tickets are $23 for adults, $12 for student reserved and $5 for at the door student rush. Thursdays are pay what you can.

Written by French playwright Marc Camoletti in the ‘60s, “Boeing-Boing” has become one of the most performed plays. Actor Tony Curtis plays lead character Bernard in a movie version.

Strum explained he is a fan of Camoletti, and directed another of Camoletti’s plays, “Don’t Dress for Dinner,” as a benefit for the Pig War Museum years ago. He has wanted to direct “Boeing-Boeing,” Strum said, for seven years.

The story takes place in the ‘60s. As the airlines upgrade planes, resulting in altered schedules, it becomes apparent all three fiances Gabriella, played by Lisa Moretti; Gloria, played by Lorien Peterson; and Gretchen, played by Libbie Grant, will be in Paris at the same time. While Bernard, played by Eric Concord, with the help of his maid, Bertha, played by Maureen See, pull out all the stops to prevent the fiances from meeting. Meanwhile, Bernard’s long-time friend Robert, played by Nathan Kessler-Jeffrey, is visiting. He is awestruck by Bernard’s lifestyle becomes drawn into the fray, causing hilarity and romance to ensue.

Careful not to give away the outcome, Strum said he believes a key lesson Bernard learns is that he cannot always be in control.

“He so carefully tries to manage the timing of his fiances and it becomes clear it is beyond his control,” Strum said.

While Bernard is engaged to the three ladies, he doesn’t plan on marrying any them. His intent is to maintain the status quo. Three, Strum added, is Bernard’s preferred number, because more than that becomes too difficult to manage and fewer is too boring.

Strum not only has directed a number of plays for the theater, and elsewhere, but has also written a number of plays and two novels.

When asked what it was like watching a play progress from word to stage, Sturm said one of the things he noticed most, was the respect necessary between writer, director, actors and stage crew. The writer must trust the performers that they will treat his work with care, most importantly not altering the words of the script. The director and performers must respect the writer and trust that each word was written for a reason.

The plays Strum has written have been farces.

“Farce is different than slap-stick,” he noted, explaining that the primary difference between the two types of comedy is that slap-stick tends to be random, not motivated by a particular story. Farce has a story to tell. That story is usually fast-paced, containing quick dialogue exchanges and plenty of action. For example, Strum said, there are seven doors on the set of “Boeing-Boeing,” with the actors quickly coming and going out of all of them. In order for farces to be successful, Strum explained, cast and crew must all be paying close attention, one dropped cue can throw not just fellow actors off, but the lighting and sound crew as well. Farces are, according to Strum, one of the most difficult types of plays to perform.

“Farces are challenging, and I am always up for a challenge,” he said with a laugh.

The fast-paced action draws the audience in, Strum continued. “Boeing-Boeing” has remained popular because attendees want to know how it turns out, whether the fiances will ever meet and how the situation is going to be resolved.

“Never underestimate the audience’s ability to follow the action,” Sturm said.

The set — Bernard’s apartment — is beautifully designed, he noted, and a lot of work went into researching Parisian style from that era. In that same fashion, each of the costumes, including the stewardess uniforms, were created with care.

“It is a pleasure to work with this wonderful cast and crew,” Strum said. “They are all top-notch, talented people.”