Prepare for a Fanciful Farce at a Nice, Safe Altitude
By Dana Hammer
Like many of you, I will be flying on an airplane this holiday season to visit family on the other side of the country. For several hours, I will be cramped in a seat where my short legs dangle, where the fumes from the outhouse are constant, and where I feel like a bad parent for handing my child a video game to keep her entertained. Yes, this is the magic of flight in 2023.
But it won’t all be bad. You see, there will be flight attendants who will do their best to make things more pleasant and safe for all of us. They will give us their safety speech, which is soothing in its sameness and unchangeability. They will provide us with drinks to keep us hydrated and food to keep us from punching each other. And for their efforts, they will be abused by angry customers making unreasonable demands, while also suffering from fumes and ear-popping, and scary turbulence.
But it wasn’t always this way. In the 1960s, there would be no outhouse smell because there would only be cigarette smoke, wafting from the well-lubricated businessmen who sat in large, comfortable seats. Flight attendants, the vast majority of whom were female, wore adorable uniforms and jaunted around the world, meeting interesting people and having adventures. Yes, they had to endure a lot of sexism and secondhand smoke, but at least there was a sense of style about it. Plus, let’s be real, they were probably smokers themselves.
“Boeing Boeing” — a French farce by Marc Camoletti, translated by Beverley Cross and Francis Evans — takes us back to the world of 1960s flight attendants. It’s about a man named Bernard, who lives in Paris, and has three fiancées — one Italian, one German, and one American. Each fiancée is a flight attendant who stops over in Paris when she can, spending time with her presumably faithful and loyal fiancé. Bernard is careful to keep his three ladies separate, saying he keeps “one up, one down, and one pending.” Because of their constant travel, he is able to maintain this lifestyle, his ladies none the wiser.
That is until a scheduling mishap throws a monkey wrench into his carefully planned affairs. Now, all three women will be coming to his apartment at the exact same time. What follows is a French farce worthy of the name, with misunderstandings, physical comedy galore, and plenty of tense excitement.
This production is directed by Jim Katapodis, who says, “It starts with three flight attendants from three different countries flying in and out and just missing each other in the transition. Bernard keeps trying to keep them from running into each other, and one flight attendant turns the tables on Bernard and totally outsmarts him in the end… The cast is amazing, and I will challenge the audience to remember what flight attendant is in what bedroom throughout the show. It even took me a while to remember. The various accents make the show interesting too. Let’s not forget about the surprise ending.”
One might wonder if, with all this cheating and romantic treachery, the play is suitable for everyone. Katapodis assures me that “It’s rated PG so anyone can see it who wants to have a good laugh.”
I, for one, will need a good laugh after all this forced Christmas cheer, and I plan to go see “Boeing Boeing” at the Westminster Community Playhouse as soon as I return home and regain feeling in my legs.
Dana Hammer is a novelist, playwright, screenwriter, and short story writer, best known for “The Cannibal’s Guide to Fasting” and “My Best Friend Athena.” She could never be a flight attendant, due to her weak constitution and inability to tolerate outhouse smells.
Westminster Community Playhouse
7272 Maple Street, Westminster, CA 92683
January 19 - February 4, 2024
(714) 893-8626, www.wcpstage.com