It’s farce time at Hedgerow, and this year the style returns to its Cooney roots with Marc Camoletti, Beverley Cross, and Francis Evans’ madcap Boeing Boeing. Bernard (Andrew Parcell), an organized architect, tries to date three stewardesses, each from a different country. His best friend, Robert (Mark Swift), a fun-loving neurotic, comes to visit and finds himself in the worst possible hot-water imaginable as each of the stewardesses arrive at the same time.
Amongst all the mayhem is Bernard’s witty French maid, Berthe, played by Trice Baldwin, who keeps the entire scheme together. Armed with deadpan wit and lightning fast quips, Berthe keeps each of the fiancees at bay, while Bernard tries desperately to fix the situation.
“It reminds me of those old Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis movies. The playboy and his buffoon friend. To me it epitomizes the idea of the ‘swinging 1960’s’,” says Baldwin.
Baldwin is also a co-founder of the Commonwealth Classic Theatre Company. Although a first time player at Hedgerow, she has deep roots with the company as her husband was a fellow with the company in the late 90’s and her brother-in-law, Paul Parente, has played at Hedgerow multiple times. She received a Bachelor’s in English from Penn State University, and trained with Tom Teti at People’s Light & Theatre Company in Malvern, PA. From the age of 12, she would visit her oldest sister in New York to see performances of The Public Theatre’s Shakespeare in the Park performances.
“Berthe keeps Bernard’s house and ‘affairs’ in order. Without her, Bernard’s plan would be chaos. She’s really just overworked and a bit misunderstood. Underneath it all she’s a kitten. Poor Berthe,” said Baldwin.
Written by Camoletti, Boeing Boeing first premiered December 10, 1960 at the Comédie-Caumartin in Paris, France. The show is directed by Damon Bonetti, who has previously directed The 39 Steps and No Sex Please, We’re British, and features an all-star cast of Hedgerow favorites including Allison Bloechl and Meredith Beck, and new faces including Hanna Hammel and Baldwin.
“I am so glad I get to the chance work with Damon again. Damon and I first worked together as actors at the Philadelphia Shakespeare Theater about 12 years ago. He has acted and directed for the theatre company I helped found (Commonwealth Classic Theatre Company). He was the Benedick to my Beatrice and most recently directed our world premiere of Rage of Achilles last summer,” said Baldwin.
For more than two decades, Hedgerow has been bringing audiences the joy of farce, a comedy that aims at entertaining the audience through highly exaggerated and extravagant situations. Stemming from the French word meaning ‘stuffing,’ or ‘padding.’ In the 1650s, French comedy began to fuse with Italian commedia dell’arte to form a new kind of play.
“It’s such a release and who doesn’t need an escape? I love how these characters are, extreme, absurd, and inflated parodies of real people. The stakes are so ridiculously high. It’s a way of laughing at ourselves and how (for lack of a better word) stupid we can all be sometimes. It’s just pure, smack-you-in-the-face, FUN.”
The public’s subliminal search for sex, pathos, brutality, and absurdity through entertainment was often satisfied through this theatrical genre and shows how the lower classes often used entertainment to mock the elite. By the end of the 17th Century, France had developed the two principal styles of comedic farce that we still have today: the older Italian style, very broad and physical and acrobatic, and the newer French style, where the acrobatics are verbal, and quick wit dominates over slapstick.
“Timing is everything. A cast with a good chemistry and great timing is what makes a comedy work, in my opinion. Farce is the most difficult, I think. The timing needs to be spot on or it can throw everything off. “
In the 1920s, a new form of farce – the bedroom farce – began to emerge, bringing the comedy of too many doors, hidden onlookers, and sexual innuendo to match the Jazz Age. This is the form of farce Hedgerow audiences have loved for so long, and Boeing-Boeing brings this form to life as good as any play.
“There is so much heaviness in the world right now. In our lives, in the lives of those around us. I think theatre plays an extremely important role in working through some of that heaviness and raising awareness and giving a voice to those who may not have one. But, damn it, sometimes you just need to LAUGH and be entertained.”