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Production

Boeing Boeing

Company

W!ld Rice

Reviewer

Deanne Tan

Date

09/04/2005

Time

8.00pm

Place

Victoria Theatre

Rating

***1/2

Plane Funny

Audiences should take note of the following safety tips before watching Boeing Boeing. First, seat belts should be securely unfastened so as not to cause stomach ruptures during moments of laughter. Second, audiences should not take the play too seriously, because there will be no laughter otherwise. Thirdly, audiences should never attempt to recreate scenes from the play at home without the supervision of a trained expert.

Let me elaborate. Unless you've been living without any media exposure, you will know that Boeing Boeing is a fun play, and kind of a sexy one as well, about a playboy who juggles his three girlfriends (all air stewardesses, no less) when their schedules happen to intersect. It's all rather silly, but it is supposed to be. To enjoy it, as with all farce, you must accept the flimsy plot for what it is - a framework within which funny scenarios can occur. You must be prepared for gratuitous elements, such as groan-worthy innuendoes, not very likely plot details, and some unapologetically tacky moments (think of the Hooters motto: "delightfully tacky, yet unrefined"). But once the lights are up and the actors are rolling, you will be too busy laughing to bother with such trifles.

Boeing Boeing is originally a French script, but one would never guess that from W!ld Rice's local adaptation. Set in the swanky Pebble Bay condominium of the playboy Bernard (Lim Yu-Beng), the main thrust of the hilarity is in the ladies' parodies of regional accents. Jelly (Pamela Oei), Miss Cathay Pacific, hails from Hong Kong, Janette (Chermaine Ang) is Miss SIA, and Junko (Emma Yong) is Miss JAL. To top it off, Bernard's morally disapproving domestic helper Rosa is played by Philippine actress/director Chari Arespacochaga. All this is executed with a lot of physical comedy - scurrying around, flailing arms, etc.

These stereotypes go down well without being overly gratuitous, partly because of the accomplished actors taking on the parts. In such skilled hands, the characters came to life and even (gasp) displayed some three-dimensionality. Oei, who doubled up as rehearsal director, was on top form and a show stealer. Her saucy Cathay Pacific girl, Jelly, first appears in a tiny crimson suit, flashing a beauty queen smile and oozing a mix of sexiness and bossiness. Wielding the most consistent accent among the three stewardesses, Oei tosses around Cantonese phrases with ease. She also infuses surprising pathos into Jelly's role. As the most marriage-focused girlfriend, Jelly wistfully hopes her relationship with Bernard will be perfect once they get married, while being ignorant of the two other women in her fiancé's life.

This is totally unlike the SIA girl, Janette, whose focus on marrying a billionaire could perhaps be read as a slap in the face of the Singapore Girl. Ang's Janette is the least sex-kitten like of the three ladies, and tries the most to be rational. When she decides to kiss Bernard's boyhood buddy from Penang, Robert (Brendon Fernandez), she tells him that the reason is because she wants to be graded on her technique. She even discusses issues of national policy (she asks, "Why is Singapore a great country?").

As for unstable Junko, Yong alternately simpers and shrieks with a Mariah-worthy range, but the poor girl is, after all, dealing with an inner conflict sparked off by a mistaken kiss and a new crush on Robert. Yong effectively flits from demure bashfulness to aggressively hysterical rejection in the manner of a disturbed individual. Penang boy Robert is bedazzled at the surfeit of babes and the attention he is getting, and he faces the tough decision of staying infatuated with Junko versus playing the field like Bernard. Yong and Fernandez are at times less than coherent as they frenziedly parry and thrust. Fernandez displays mainly one emotion - being very high-strung - as the hapless Robert, who has to help Bernard cover up the presence of three women in one flat.

Interestingly, Lim Yu-Beng's rakish character ends up appearing more hubris-stricken than womanising. With his nightmare scenario come true and three girlfriends to manage, he develops a hounded air of desperation. He is eventually forced to give a frustrated Rosa a raise for putting up with the demands of juggling three women.

Nonetheless, it is all's well that ends well, with three happy unions to seal the play (and one domestic servant with a raise).

Boeing Boeing maintains the production standards we have come to expect from W!ld Rice, with a stylish set and smooth-as-silk staging. It takes a certain courage to put on a play that does not attempt to take itself seriously. It takes even more to do such good job that everything looks effortless and people have a darned good laugh. Director Glen Goei deserves credit for sharp direction - he coordinates every move onstage perfectly and maintains the dignity of the performance, even through the odd fainting spell or pillow fight. (On a side note, blasting Barry White songs was a cute motif to match the atmosphere of the play, but putting the few songs on repeat throughout the interval was a tad campy.)


"You must be prepared for gratuitous elements, such as groan-worthy innuendoes and some unapologetically tacky moments, but once the lights are up and the actors are rolling, you will be too busy laughing to bother with such trifles"

Credits

Written by Marc Camoletti

English Version by Beverley Cross

Directed by Glen Goei

Starring Lim Yu-Beng, Pam Oei, Emma Yong, Chermaine Ang, Brendon Fernandez and Chari Arespacochaga

More Reviews of Productions by W!ld Rice

More Reviews by Deanne Tan

Ratings out of 5, based on Practitioner's Vision / Reviewer's Response: ***** = Transcendent / Rapturous;
**** = Crystal / Appreciative; *** = Transmitted / Thoughtful; ** = Vague / Unsatisfied; * = Uncommunicated / Mystified.