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Hunters Hill Theatre: Boeing Boeing - Review by Luke Brown

Hunters Hill Theatre’s ‘Boeing Boeing’, directed by Chrissie McIntyre, is an outrageously fun and infectious ride from start to finish.

Bernard (played by Michael Mulvenna) is a highly organized man, sticking tight to his routines. He needs to ensure his American fiancée Gloria (Laura Stead) finishes breakfast and leaves on time to make her flight to Chicago, otherwise his lunch plans with his Italian fiancée Gabriella (Gabrielle Rawlings) might be put in jeopardy. Likewise, it’s imperative his luncheon with Gabriella finishes without complication — ensuring she makes her flight, otherwise dinner with Gretchen (Cassandra Gorman), his German fiancée, may be canceled. Though this arrangement may sound insane, Bernard swears, so long as you plan and stay on schedule, it’s a perfect system. However, as we’ve all no doubt experienced, the more you try to stick to a schedule, the more things run out of alignment. Soon the show becomes a comedy of errors as Bernard, Bertha — his exhausted maid (Maggie Scott), and childhood friend Robert (Luke Baweja) attempt to stop the women from running into each other within the flat, trying desperately to appease them and get them to leave.

The script is so tight that you hang on to every word uttered; however, in the hands of another group of actors, the brilliant lines may fall flat. It’s incredibly fortunate that the actors of this show each not only have stage presence but also possess the dramatic and comedic chops crucial for a show of this nature to be a success. Bernard is a scumbag of a character, intelligent and charismatic, yes, but a scumbag all the same. It takes a special kind of performance for me to feel worried for someone I would never hope to know, and Mulvenna manages to make his multiple near-panic attacks concerning, without undercutting the comedy. While Gloria is unfortunately away for much of the show, Stead’s performance perfectly showcases the character's commanding American tone and Elle Woods energy. It was so captivating that for the few scenes she was present, I literally couldn’t look anywhere she wasn’t.

While the premise of the show is entirely the fault of Bernard, it is really Robert’s show, as he is the one we follow for much of the events. Robert is the exact opposite of Bernard; while Bernie is cunning, snide and speaks his mind, Rob is submissive, awkward and at times hilariously pathetic.  Baweja presents Robert in all his shaky, sweaty greatness, and also allows a natural evolution to occur with him before our eyes. While he is no less the picture of anxiety by the end of the show, he appears more comfortable within the flat, and around both Bernard and the other characters. The comedic and romantic tension between Robert and Gretchen is also a highlight to me. The coy demeanor Gretchen has in her scenes with Robert after the accidental kiss was so fun to watch. The way she squirms at the temptation and frequent pathetic attempts he makes at her for a follow-up kiss is so cute and funny, and her German accent is the first I’ve heard that I’ve actually wanted to listen to. All this rambling, and yet I haven’t yet touched on my favorite character of the bunch: Bertha. Throughout the show, Bertha has a series of repeat lines “I’ll do it… but it isn’t easy!”, “this is no life for a maid, This is no life for anybody!”. Normally, I don’t like characters with consistent catchphrases, and a character like Bertha could so easily be a boring one-note character if in the hands of a lesser performer; however, Scott’s performance brings layers to her I didn’t expect. Yes, she’s a funny tired maid (whose exhaustion is palpable) but more than that, she’s a woman who works endlessly in a role that she is not appreciated nearly enough for. Adding to this layered performance, Scott’s comedic timing was among the best in the cast, making her one of the funniest characters in the lineup. I will now be quoting Bertha for the next couple of months (sorry to those who know me personally!).

Theatergoers will have a hard time not being struck by the charm of the 60’s setting and all its groovy flourishes. The set is beautifully simple yet houses many featured pieces which establish not only the era but also the actors organically utilizing the space to enhance the comedy. You find characters running all around the flat, entering and exiting through doors, and pacing through the different sections of the lounge. While we never see inside any of the four rooms (five if you include the kitchen beyond the curtain's veil), they nonetheless feel tangible and consistent in how they are employed. The audience sees a character walk through a door to have a bath and return in a towel without any makeup, or Bertha leaves for the kitchen to prepare breakfast and returns begrudgingly with pancakes and molasses. Despite how extravagant and spacious the flat may feel at first glance, as the situation becomes more complicated, the space begins to feel cramped and dangerous — in a funny sort of way. As the show takes place over the course of a day, the acts are split up into; morning, afternoon, and evening respectively. Lighting is used to great effect throughout to subtly imply the time of day, as well as to enhance the drama of the moment. I tip my hat to set and lighting designer Wayne Chee, as their work was instrumental in elevating this already amazing show into a phenomenal one! And of course, a hand must be given to the technicians behind the booth to operate those choices within the performance.

I was thoroughly invested from start to finish, almost whining to myself during the act two and three interval, despite needing to stretch my legs. When the show had concluded, the lights went up and the cast came out for the bows, I had to actively remind myself that the people I had been watching for the past few hours were actors. It was a jolt to the system, as I was so enwrapped by their performance I literally forgot I was there to review a play! Not sure if that’s a mark up for the show or a mark down for me as a person…

Ultimately, all this fluff is leading to the question ‘is it worth watching?’, my answer to which should be quite obvious; YES! ABSOLUTELY!! I loved the show! It is more than worth both the price of admission and the trek to Ryde — assuming you’re from the city like myself. I want to extend a personal thank you to the cast and crew for such an amazing night at the theatre; you should all be very proud to have put on such a quality show!

5 unexpected kisses (we weren’t ready for) out of 5 Photos courtesy of Daniel Ferris

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