Thursday, 26 May 2016

Highlights of the Detailed Adjudication of Boeing Boeing at Theatre Ontario Festival 2016

By Brandon Moore, Community Theatre and Communications Manager

Highlights of the detailed adjudication by Mimi Mekler of Northumberland Players’ production of Boeing Boeing by Marc Camoletti, translated by translated by Beverly Cross and Francis Evans (representing the Eastern Ontario Drama League—EODL)
  • Farce plays in a particular style
  • It was the director’s first farce; as an actor he was told once to take a good laugh and break into three—the science and experimentation of it appealed to him
  • They worked with their props early; set was taped out for them
  • Wanted to ensure character drove the comedy; director says he loves cheap laughs but he wanted them all to be earned
  • Moments were shaped by circumstances (e.g. reminding them what’s behind the door)
  • The women characters can’t be played as stupid—they don’t figure out what’s going on because they’re confident in the relationship
  • Design was bold, primary and secondary colours, bright and well-lit; Matisse painting placed it in France; porthole in kitchen door created an opportunity for a good pay-off
  • Bright white furniture but the arrangement of it was very straight; adapted set from 32-feet to 24-feet between original production in Cobourg and EODL Festival in Peterborough; decided not to expand it back for Theatre Ontario Festival; needed functionality and so the cast had pathways; also made good use of U.S. playing area
  • How accurate were the costumes?: Researched colours, etc. but needed to be functional as well (e.g. a skirt slit in the right place in order for the actress to be able to jump into a character’s arms), colours were carried into lingerie, towels, etc.
  • Why did they mic? Audio concerns, especially with the accents potentially affecting comprehension
  • Opened with cel-phone announcements in style of aircraft messages
  • The opening dance between Gloria and Berthe; not scripted, and established immediately for the audience that we are in a comedy. Why would they dance? Berthe is reluctant, Gloria draws her in, they have a history.
  • Berthe is the only working class character in the play—she transgresses her class; from the commedia dell’arte tradition of the clever servant who runs everything
  • How “American” was Gloria? Actress established her as not from the city, her flight attendant training would have trained any brash accent out of her. The other two flight attendants are clearly types: Italian hothead, German romantic—American what?
  • Company had started rehearsals with the 1962 script, and then received the 2008 script which changed nationalities (Bernard was French, Robert was British, Gabriella was French etc.), numerous changes to be less offensive, subtle changes in some of the lines
  • Vocal work: Gloria could have relaxed more, Berthe played effectively with speed in her delivery
  • Make strong exits: Exit on the period rather than the last word
  • Robert brought beige palette into the costuming
  • Bernard breaks the fourth wall (established convention), able to find someone in the audience easily
  • Well-executed effect of the hidden shelf in the desk with the flight schedules
  • Would you understand the play if you turned down the sound? Bernard’s moment with the globe was a clear communication without the words
  • Berthe leaning over Robert—this is an example of the transgressive behaviour that needed reactions from the other characters
  • Always support accents to the end of the dialogue; vocal warm-ups are needed
  • Bernard and Robert talking about the letter: good example of comic mirroring for physical laughs
  • End of Act One with the men dancing to the music (unheard to them) was another fun theatrical touch
  • Robert and Berthe sitting on the suitcase: good example of using something in a way differently than intended, but again—acknowledge her transgression
  • Berthe’s drink gag was a great solution to a sequence with a lot of dialogue; would have benefitted from rehearsal so she could be on top of the actions, fully confident doing it
  • Gretchen’s melodramatic choices gave her range; hair and make-up (distinct brows, buns) supported character
  • Lovely moment of Gretchen enjoying the pillow
  • The person who loaned them the couch didn’t want it returned after seeing how lasciviously it was used
  • Act Two is when Robert begins to step out of his own persona and try on different personalities
  • Good use of physical comedy double-takes for reveal that both Gabriella and Gretchen are there
  • Puppet show behind the sofa—visibility underneath the sofa was an opportunity discovered when they got the furniture and saw the height they had underneath
  • Physical comedy needs to read as truthful: Robert grabbing Bernard’s bum in the three-way hug with Gretchen didn’t read as accidental
  • Gabriella evolved into the Italian “tough guy”—found many of her hand gestures online to emphasize words and moments; some were wonderful, a few needed more precision and clarity (less rushed)
  • Robert’s “everybody’s going out” breaking the fourth wall towards the end of Act Two—less effective as it read as “rushed”, unclear if it was intended to break the fourth wall
  • Top of Act Three settles back into realism
  • Berthe comes in while Robert and Gretchen are holding hands; even if she didn’t see them, they needed to react as if she might have
  • Establish payoffs to gags early—How did Robert know that the footstool opened before he used it?
  • Gloria took her time well with the underwear; both made the most of this moment of discovery
  • “It’s not impossible” establishes a different flavour in Gloria and Robert’s relationship
  • Script continuity issues start to appear in Act Three—a uniform is taken off in the bathroom, and put back on in a bedroom
  • Full company commitment to comedy: Berthe enters with a cleaver and a rubber chicken, the props offered to find a live chicken
  • Berthe’s Act Three costume with hat coat and bag created a new look, good visual variety
  • Robert not recognizing the telephone rings was a running gag—so it needed a “button” on the final telephone call
  • Curtain call with dancing, flight attendant gestures, etc. was a fun way to finish the production
As always, this is my best effort to record the conversation at the Detailed Adjudication, with a standard apology for any misrepresentations of the ideas of the adjudicator and the members of the company. Corrections and clarifications are welcome in the comments.

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