By Debbie Crawford
Director Brad Moore has a rapt audience when he tells the cast of “Boeing Boeing” at rehearsal, “Imagine having a non-smoking section on an airplane! And we used to get dressed up to fly, and they’d bring you meals.” The cast and crew, largely made up of Colorado Mountain College students and recent alumni, laugh in disbelief.
It was in those days, when airline travel for the masses was still new and romantic, that “Boeing Boeing,” the Sopris Theatre Company production that opens Oct. 21, is set. The character Bernard boasts to his friend that stewardesses – the play was written in the early 1960s – were chosen largely for their beauty, personality and grace. And it’s just this type of screening that Bernard depends upon for finding women to meet, date and become engaged to.
It works so well for him that he ends up with three fiancees, each from a different airline and country, who of course are blissfully unaware of each other. It works well, that is, until the introduction of a new, and much faster, Boeing jet throws off his carefully scheduled life of lies. Will Bernard’s precisely managed world spin apart around him?
That’s where the humor steps in as this classic French comedy comes to the stage at Colorado Mountain College Spring Valley Oct. 21-30.
“One of the things that makes this play exciting and fun is that it’s a traditional French farce,” said Moore. “It’s a reflection of the time and era. It makes fun of the stereotypes, like what people from different countries eat, that stewardesses were glamorous jet-setters.”
But at the same time, he said, you can’t play the characters too broadly. “You have to approach these characters with genuine honesty, and believe in these people,” he said. “It’s what makes them believable and funny.”
The talented ensemble of actors have performed on local stages in everything from a dozen CMC productions like “Rocky Horror Show,” “The Miracle Worker” and “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum,” to Defiance Community Players musicals like “Les Miserables,” to Aspen Community Theatre’s “Peter Pan” and
productions of the Crystal Palace and Theatre Aspen.
Eric Lamb, who portrays Bernard, says that for his character, it’s all about the details. “Bernard doesn’t feel like what he does is wrong. Marriage didn’t work out for him, so he said ‘screw it, I’ll make my own norms.’”
Cast brings broad skills to
Lamb, who teaches French at Aspen High School, and stage manager and assistant director Ciara Morrison, who was an exchange student in Switzerland, were able to put their language skills to work in coaching the actors in various European accents. From a cynical, all-seeing French maid portrayed by Peggy Wilkie, to stewardesses German Gretchen (Paige Ulmer), American Gloria (Emily Henley) and Italian Gabriella (Shelby Lathrop), the accents and lines fly fast and furiously.
“I studied Spanish in school,” said Wilkie, “so it was a challenge to learn a French accent. But while learning the accent, I was able to find the character.”
The assembled actors praised Moore, explaining why they jumped at the chance to work with him.
Lathrop, a former CMC student who left the U.S. to attend the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Arts and has recently returned to Colorado, said, “Brad really trusts us. I think the best directors see the small things actors do, and bring it out. It makes actors feel safe and confident.”
“I learned how important it is to have a director, as an actor,” said Scott Elmore, who portrays Robert, Bernard’s friend. “You think you’ve done it perfectly, and he says, ‘No, no, no!’ Or you think you couldn’t have done it worse, and he’s cracking up.
“Brad draws the character out of the actor, rather than impressing it upon them,” Elmore said.
This production from Sopris Theatre Company at Colorado Mountain College was written by Marc Camoletti, translated by Beverly Cross and Francis Evans, and directed by Brad Moore. Not recommended for young children.
Curtain is at 7 p.m. on Oct. 21-22 and 27-29, and 2 p.m. on Oct. 23 and 30. Tickets are $18 for adults and $13 for students, seniors, staff and faculty. For more information go to firstname.lastname@example.org or call 947-8177. All performances are at the New Space Theatre at Colorado Mountain College Spring Valley.