It’s important for people to be able to laugh at themselves. Comedy can provide commentary on the world and insight into higher truths, and especially in the current political times, we all need to laugh at how foreigners view what it’s like to be “an American.” In Marc Camoletti’s Boeing- Boeing, running at Hedgerow Theatre now through August 21, Meredith Beck brings the French playwright’s clichéd vision to life.
Beck revels in playing Gloria, a ditzy New Yorker with fire in her belly, in the critically acclaimed production. Gloria opens the play in the arms of her lover, Bernard (played by Andrew Parcell), in Paris. Yet, as flights get delayed and her views are challenged, her ditzyness slips away revealing a strong feminist stance and carnal, power-hungry desires.
“I find how bold Gloria is to be quite amusing,” Beck said. “It’s hard to find characters
who are not like yourself, but I think they largely become your favorite characters to play. What she feels comfortable doing with total strangers is something I cannot relate to. She is 100% confident. I’ve joked with cast members about her table manners and dining experience… she’s absurd”
Beck loves the challenge of playing someone so different from herself. With the help of director Damon Bonetti, Beck has taken this brash New Yorker and developed a loving, if not ridiculous, send-up to the essential quirks of being “an American.”
“I thought of characters like Adelaide from Guys and Dolls,” she recalled, “adding in the gum-smacking tough factor that Marisa Tomei brought to My Cousin Vinny… and that started me off with a direction I thought I could play with. Damon has helped me out a lot with this process and was incredibly patient, it really took time for me to find Gloria.”
Beck had to find a way to get into the mind of Camoletti to play with the part. Physically, she fits the French stereotype of an “American” Gloria to a “T”: petite, blonde and larger than life. Yet, her talent as an actor reveals a hilariously authentic, yet wonderfully clichéd Gloria that is delighting both audiences and critics alike.
“I actually approached Gloria initially in a very different way than she has ended up,” Beck explained. “I first was reading Gloria to be a ‘perky faux cheerleader type’ and I kept hearing her lines as having a southern influence, even though she is referenced as a New Yorker. Perky cheerleader still exists, but now there’s a lot of bossiness layered in, and she’s quite aggressive and sassy.”
The aforementioned Bernard, an American architect living in Paris, has what he believes is the perfect system for having three fiancées: make sure they are airline hostesses on different routes. Yet, by the end of the play the normally cool Bernard learns that some of his loves play the game better than he. Gloria, brings American things into the mix, including sports, junk food and an A-type temperament.
“In addition to personality, there is a big point made of the stereotype of Americans eating large amounts of fairly disgusting food,” Beck laughed. “I’m probably lucky that the worst thing I have to eat is pancakes and ketchup.”
Comedy loves clichés, though there is certainly an art to color commentary and “not knowing your funny.” Directors and actors love finding the essential truth of a scene, but reveling in the things that make audiences laugh is what makes a farce spark.
“I think clichés and stereotypes have a foundation of truth, but it’s just funny seeing every single characteristic combined into one ‘Super Stereotypical Person,’ Beck noted. “You hear about loud Americans and bossy Americans, the massive amounts of food we eat, ill-mannered, sexually aggressive—but surely those characteristics didn’t all exist in the same person… Well in farce, they do”
“I love getting to play at Hedgerow in their summer farce! Farce requires a lot of trust
of cast members, and a responsibility to make sure you do your best to set up others for success. This cast trusts each other, and I look forward to a solid and silly run.
Adult ticket prices for Friday, Saturday evening and Sunday shows are $34; Saturday twilight shows are $29. There is a $3 discount for seniors. Tickets for those 30 and under and students are $20. For groups of 10 or more, tickets are $18. Prices include all fees and are subject to change.
For reservations or more info, call 610-565-4211 or visit www.HedgerowTheatre.org. Hedgerow Theatre is located at 64 Rose Valley Road in Rose Valley (near Media).