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Boeing Boeing at CLO Cabaret

What irritates me about sex farces is the way the playwright transforms the cad into a loving, monogamous husband

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Seven years ago, there was a rapturously reviewed Broadway revival of a '60s French sex farce called Boeing Boeing, written by Marc Camoletti, in a translation by Beverley Cross and Francis Evans. It's about Bernard, a man who is juggling three stewardesses, and how everything gets messed up when an old school chum, Robert, stops by for a visit.

After seeing the current Pittsburgh CLO Cabaret production, I'm wondering whether I've lost my mind. Instead of being swept away, I left the theater dispirited and disgusted.

Yes, I know these sorts of plays are meant as nothing more than a bit of cheeky fun. And at their best, there is a certain pleasure to be had from the clockwork precision of the slamming doors and mounting hysteria. (None of which, by the way, Boeing Boeing possesses.)

Actors Conor McCanlus and Amanda Pulcini in Boeing Boeing
  • Photo courtesy of CLO Cabaret
  • Conor McCanlus and Amanda Pulcini in CLO Cabaret's Boeing Boeing

What irritates me about sex farces, however, is the way the playwright titillates an audience with the illicit tingle of infidelity but then, in the last five minutes, transforms the cad into a loving, monogamous husband. Boeing Boeing follows the same path ... and the transformation here is especially eye-rolling, happening as it does in less than three seconds.

But mostly I dislike the genre because of its view of women, presented as little more than tissues to be discarded once the man has done his business in them. Boeing Boeing is especially guilty in this regard: Bernard is unbelievably demeaning and selfish in his treatment of the stewardesses. Yes, it's just a silly comedy. But in order for the jokes to work, you need to have a specific opinion about women ... which I do not.

Part of my reaction might be based on this by-the-numbers CLO production, directed by Van Kaplan. The actors, a hard-working cast to be sure, led by Tony Bingham and Connor McCanlus, say their lines and hit their marks with verve. But the show never really catches fire; that foreboding sense of the impending discovery of Bernard's chicanery fails to gather.

On the plus side, set designer Tony Ferrieri has created the fantastic 1960s swingin' bachelor apartment. If he could only get the tenant to move out.

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