Sex farces can be silly, loaded with slapstick and full of well-worn clichés. That’s true of the 1965 Broadway flop, “Boeing, Boeing,” but Hot Summer Nights is staging the 2008 Tony-winning revival version for its season opener, and it’s a hit – extremely funny and executed by top talent, on stage and off.
In 1960’s Paris, American architect Bernard cleverly coordinates the arrivals and departures of his flight attendant mistresses: American Gloria, Italian Gabriella and German Gretchen. Each works for a different airline, and their paths never cross. Bernard’s long-suffering maid, Bertha, is in on scheme, changing photos, flowers and foods for each woman as she stays over.
Everything is fine until Bernard’s bumbling school chum Robert shows up, unwittingly becoming embroiled in Bernard’s scheme as it begins to crumble under cancelled flights and newly assigned routes. Hilarity ratchets up as Robert tries to help Bernard keep each woman from finding out about the others as they converge on the apartment on the same day.
The Broadway revival retooled the script (translated from the French play by Marc Camoletti), added sharper humor and dizzy exuberance, qualities retained here by director Jessica Bogart, a member of the revival cast. She pushes her actors to intensely physical shenanigans and outsized characterizations but keeps them from becoming overdone or uncontrolled.
The actors’ energy and precision keep the pace bouncing throughout the lengthy script ( 23/4 hours, with intermission). There are some less inspired stretches and some minor jokes milked too far, but generally the dialog and situations are some of the funniest in memory.
Much of this comes from the superb clowning of Bryan T. Donovan’s Robert, his exasperation rising as he constructs elaborate lies to avoid impending disaster. He plays well off Ben Nordstrom’s Bernard, whose cocky confidence soon turns into high panic. Cameron Leigh Wade’s sassily Southern Gloria is a cheerleader on steroids, Lauren Barone makes a charming, hotly emotional Gabriella, and Lilly Nelson gives Gretchen a no-nonsense steeliness. All three have amusingly heightened but believable accents. Mike Rabb’s Bertha has a Southern-sounding French accent that detracts from an otherwise nicely underplayed gender-switch, his timing and facial expressions getting laugh after laugh.
Chris Bernier’s chic beige-and gray set and LeGrande Smith’s Mod costumes complete this satisfying comic romp, a grand start for the season.