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Review: ‘Boeing Boeing’

Go back 50 years when playboys were appealing, flight attendants were called stewardesses and all the world was laid out like shag carpeting and you have “Boeing Boeing,” the farce currently on stage at Riverside Theatre in Vero Beach.

Set on the east bank of Paris, the play opens with Bernard having breakfast with his fiancee, Gloria, a stewardess for TWA. Although she wants to snuggle, he hurriedly gets her out the door before the return of his second fiancee, Gabriella, a stewardess for Italia airlines. Yes, there is a third fiancee, Gretchen, a stewardess for Lufthansa. Because they all have different flight schedules, none of the know about the others. Problems arise for the meticulously organized Bernard when flight schedules.

If this is sounding familiar, that’s because it is. The 1961 farce’s creator, the late French playwright Marc Camoletti, wrote similar farces — “Changing Rooms,” “Just Desserts” and “Don’t Dress for Dinner” (a.k.a. “Happy Birthday”) — about infidelity surrounding a playboy named Bernard and his friend Robert.

Directed by James Brennan, this production has an exceptional professional cast which twists and turns the lightweight script into something far funnier than you’d expect. Especially terrific are Karen Ziemba, John Scherer and Kathel Carlson who deliver 150 percent funny and embroider their performances with much more than the script gives.

As Gretchen, Karen Ziemba makes you laugh until you cry with a Cherman Ackzent evocative of Kenneth Mars’ Inspector Kemp in “Young Frankenstein.” Ziemba received a 2000 Tony Award and Drama Desk Award for her work as the Wife in “Contact.” She also was nominated for a Tony and Drama Desk for her sweet portrayal of Georgia Hendricks in “Curtains.”

As Robert, Broadway actor John Scherer has the type of enviable timing that can make a spit take funnier than the one before. In fact, Scherer handles the rising frenzy with hysterical physicality.

Kathel Carlson brings a vivid voice to the surly French maid, Bertha.

Jennifer Cody brings out a both sweet and brassy side to Gabriella. Heather Parcelis pours it on as super New Yorkey Gloria. All this action and high-flying comedy leaves Adam Monley, as Bernard, rather like the straight man in the backseat.

Scenic designer Ray Klausen has created a beautiful, swanky apartment for the setting. However, choosing an image of Sacre Coeur in the window is too easily confused with the Taj Mahal. Gail Baldoni’s costume design is at its best with the three stewardesses uniforms. But this type of period piece begs for more class in the peignoir department. And, Bernard needs more visual help to make him the type of playboy who would make women swoon.

On the heels of the Broadway hit “Catch Me If You Can” and now the new primetime TV series, “Pan Am,” it seems pretty logical that we’d soon have a production of “Boeing Boeing.”

“Boeing Boeing” first ran on Broadway for an embarrassing low number of performances, only 23. A little distance through time and haze of romanticism of the swinging ’60s no doubt helped. Broadway saw a success revival in 2008, running nine months and reaping a 2008 Tony Award and Drama Desk Award for best revival of a play.

Here, it is sweet and fun and makes you laugh out loud…frequently. But the biggest draw is the opportunity to see some gifted Broadway performers in our own backyard.

SIDE O’ GRITS: “Boeing Boeing” runs through Nov. 13. It performs 7:30 p.m. Wednesdays and Thursdays; 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays; and 2 p.m. Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays. $36 to $70. Riverside Theatre is at 3250 Riverside Drive, Vero Beach. Call 800-445-6745 or visit