Nobody does farce like the French. After all, these are the people who saw three people hooking up and living together, and gave it a name.
In Boeing Boeing, French playwright Marc Camoletti took the ménage à trois and created his own kind of ménage à quatre — wherein three of the people don't even know they're involved. The fourth is Bernard, who is juggling three fiancées, all flight attendants, with the help of airline timetables.
This might have been shocking in the 1960s, when the play is set. But will it stall on the runway with 2011 audiences? David McClendon, who is directing the TheatreWorks production, isn't worried.
"Perhaps it's a little more acceptable, but still out of the ordinary," he says. "The challenges are immense in farce. It's very hard, because it has to be so specific and it takes incredibly skilled people. It's not for the faint of heart."
Local favorite Chad Siebert plays Bernard, with Matthew Mueller as his friend and Diana Dresser as his maid. The fiancées are: Adrian Eglof as the American, Jamie Anne Romero as the Italian, and Jessica Jackson as the German.
Bernard changes his diet and even redecorates his bedroom every time a new fiancée is due. But his meticulous planning goes off course when the airlines adjust their schedules.
It's easy to think of Bernard as a player, exploiting the trio of lovelies for his own selfish desires. But Siebert actually considers his character a softie and a romantic.
"I think, in order for this person to not be completely hated by everybody, you have to believe that he just has in his mind that he really does love all three of these women. And they all love him. He's like, 'There's enough for everybody.'"
Siebert, 35, is the only TheatreWorks veteran among the cast, and he leaped at this chance.
"I like to do comedies," he says. "Farces aren't real. There aren't a lot out there, so when one comes along ... they're a lot of fun to do, they're very stylized."
The audience has to enter Bernard's "fantasyland," suspending disbelief that anyone would act this way. That's crucial to staging farce, McClendon says.
"It has to be viable, it has to be believable. But you're dealing with situations that are improbable. Everyone has to be on the same page, in the same moment. And there are aspects of it that are, literally, choreographed. And there's no time for a wisp of letting down. One door closes and another one opens."
Doors are key to farce — the set has seven, ready for the fiancées to pop in and out, nearly seeing each other while Bernard and his friend do damage control.
"It's great fun. ... It'll be a joy to watch these people," McClendon says. "They're truly skilled, really first-rate."