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Arts & Entertainment
Boeing Boeing
by Mark Thompson & Robert Doyle
June 30, 2008 
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Housing woes got you down? Tired of political backbiting and global economic malaise? Feeling nostalgic for the Swingin’ Sixties, when flying was fun and air hostesses ruled the sky? Well, even if you’ve only read of such a world—Flying? Fun?—you can live it all vicariously by taking a seat at the Longacre Theatre and preparing for take-off in the delicious and madcap comedy Boeing Boeing. With a six-person cast that works with as much precision as a Swiss watch as they hurl across the stage and in and out of slamming doors, Boeing Boeing is a blast of nitrous oxide that leaves you gasping for more.

When was the last time you belly-laughed with as much abandon in a Broadway theatre? Probably not since the original Noises Off back in 1983. Boeing Boeing utilizes some of the same broad physical comedy that made Noises Off so hysterical—but instead of one ditzy blonde, there are three wacky women who utilize their feminine wiles in the most exaggerated fashion. As played by Kathryn Hahn, Gina Gershon, and Mary McCormack, the three air mattresses—er, hostesses—exploit nearly every stereotype connected to their country of origin—America, Italy, and Germany—using accents so thick and satirical as to sometimes render their words nearly unintelligible—and yet, still, you find yourself laughing—as much for their stances and their rubber-faced expressions as the words you can barely understand. These three actors are comediennes in the tradition of Carol Burnett and Lucille Ball—and a reminder of how much fun it is to see people getting loose onstage.

Years ago, Boeing Boeing was such a hit in Europe that it ran for seven years in London and nineteen in Paris—but upon arriving in New York at the Cort Theatre in 1965, the show closed after only 23 performances. Fortunately, Matthew Warchus knew a good thing when he read it—and Warchus’s direction is as sure-footed as the three air hostesses in their spike heels. There’s also Mark Rylance who was recently awarded the Tony for Best Actor for his performance of a rube in the middle of a sexual smorgasbord, and a daffy Bradley Whitford as the manic Lothario.

In spite of New York’s pass on the show back in 1965, Hollywood came calling and Boeing Boeing became a movie starring Jerry Lewis and Tony Curtis. The current production, however, more accurately recalls another Hollywood film, also starring Curtis: the delectable Billy Wilder-directed Some Like It Hot—and in fact, at show’s end, you can almost hear Bradley Whitford’s character saying to Rylance’s, “Well, nobody’s perfect.” True enough, but this show is as close to perfection as any comedy on Broadway, past or present. Or as Gloria, the American, puts it,“SHA-ZAM!”