>boeing boeing by w!ld rice

>reviewed by kenneth kwok

>date: 5 oct 2002
>time: 8pm
>venue: jubilee hall, raffles hotel
>rating: ****1/2

>tired already? go home then
>review junkie? whitney, give them this click to sniff

>look, we know that you need to know that we, as responsible reviewers, have some quantifiable categories to rate productions, and are not just relying on some undefinable instinct or gut feeling. So to put your mind at ease, we will give you a logical rating system based on the practitioner's vision / and the reviewer's response of a particular production. Here it is then: ***** : Transcendent / Rapturous. ****: Crystal / Appreciative. ***: Transmitted / Thoughtful. **:Vague / Unsatisfied. * : Uncommunicated / Mystified. Yet in the end, you will feel that this is (1) a cheap attempt to justify the subjective arbitrariness of our rating system (2) buttressed by an interest in the logical (and inevitable) categorisation of such productions, which is (3) undermined by the cheapness of the attempt, and (4) confused by the creeping feeling you are getting that we are dead serious in our feeling that this rating system is an accurate description of the content, intent and quality of the production. Oh please -- does it even matter now? Look, at least we tried.


Comedy, it is not easy.

Sure, we look at someone like Jim Carey and we say the man is a fool but he does make us laugh. And we are not talking about little crinkly wry smiles but great big whoops of side-splitting, thigh-slapping, rolling-in the-aisles laughter. You've tried it at the office party. You've tried it to impress your in-laws. You've tried it while picking up a babe at the bar. You know it is not easy.

And yet, comedy gets little respect. As an art form, it's considered base. Meryl Streep doesn't win any Oscars being mistaken as one of The Three Stooges. Laurence Olivier was never hit in the face with banana cream pie. Even Shakespeare is remembered more for 'Hamlet' than 'The Comedy of Errors' - and let's not even go into the fact that, at least by contemporary standards, even Shakespeare's comedies are hardly full-throttle belly-blasters. Tack on a wedding at the end and it becomes a comedy - something taken to the extreme with the recent film, 'My Big Fat Greek Wedding' which was cute, charming, romantic but, really, I found my thigh distinctly unmolested.

Imagine then the uphill battle that W!ld Rice faces with BOEING BOEING. This is a comedy harking back to the days of farce when the whole raison d'être is simply to make you laugh - it doesn't so much have a plot than a premise. There is not a single moment of navel-gazing, heart-tugging or soul-searching in the play - BOEING BOEING is meant to be an unmitigated full-frontal assault on the funny bone.

And, praise the Happy Gods, it is!

>>'The man beside me was laughing so hard, I honestly thought he was going to have a heart attack'

The story is simple: cocky Bernard thinks he can easily string along his three air stewardess fiancées (Miss SIA, Miss Cathay Pacific and Miss JAL) because it's a simple matter of juggling their timetables with the assistance of his reliable maid, Rosa. Enter his good friend, Robert from Kuching, who happens to visit on the very day that, due to pilot strikes and flight rescheduling, all three ladies arrive in Singapore together, resulting in much brou-HAHA in the Bernard household!

The script, which was translated from Marc Camoletti's French original and then localised by W!ld Rice, had the audience in stitches right from the opening sequence where Miss JAL came out to thank sponsors and remind the audience to switch off their hand-phones entirely in Japanese. The laughs kept coming fast and furious and the frantic pace was well-managed by director Glen Goei. The audience responded in kind with whoops of laughter and applause throughout the performance. It was like being at a party with friends - but cool, funny friends. Or maybe even, 'Friends', as in the Lisa Kudrow - Matthew Perry variety. The man beside me was laughing so hard, I honestly thought he was going to have a heart attack. Which would have been the only unfunny thing to happen during these two hours of pure, unadulterated comedy.

Set pieces were beautifully crafted and realised and the cast carried off the roles with aplomb, spot-on timing and tongues stuck so firmly in their cheeks, you'd wonder they could talk at all. But talk they did - and Chermaine Ang, Emma Yong and Pam Oei delighted the audiences with their Singapore Ah Lian, Japanese and Hong Kong accents and with mannerisms that were so shamelessly stereotyped that they were, of course, totally accurate. The three ladies and Lim Yu-Beng turned in classy performances that were a credit to the accolades they have racked up over the years. Sean Yeo, as the goofy friend, Robert, also impressed with a verbal and physical flair that, although it came across as over-the-top initially, was ultimately just what the part required (his Hawaiian shirt, however, will take more forgiving). Mae Paner as the long-suffering maid with an oft-repeated mantra suitable for all occasions ("It is not easy") was, of course, playing another stock comedy character but like the rest of the cast, she rose to the occasion and played her part in a way that came across as both fresh and yet comfortingly familiar.

W!ld Rice should be lauded for being one of the few companies in Singapore which is prepared to stage lavish, broad-based, mainstream comedies, and more importantly, to stage these productions well, to the point that they are of an international calibre. Despite the local flavour, this Singaporeanised BOEING BOEING would still go down a treat in any part of the world, and would be credited no less for its high production values, quality acting and sharp direction.