When: Fridays-Sundays, 8 p.m. Continues through Sept. 14 2014
Boeing Boeing, a sudsy, French comedy from the 1960s playing at Altarena Playhouse (1409 High St., Alameda), shouldn’t be as enjoyable as it is. It’s about a rich and naïve playboy living in Paris who has duped three beautiful air hostesses into thinking each of them is the only one engaged to him. It’s rife with outdated gender politics, over-the-top accents, and slapstick that is so slapstick-y it borders on physical abuse. And yet, the play succeeds in spite of (or perhaps because of) all these traits. Part of what makes Boeing a triumph is the way in which it takes the laughable stereotypes and conventions of the 1960s and exaggerates them to the point that they are genuinely laughable. The ladies exploit the most obvious traits of their home countries. Gloria, the American, is obsessed with money and putting ketchup on things. Gabriella, the Italian, is all romance and hot-headedness, and Gretchen, the German, is a righteous defender of sauerkraut, frankfurters, and screaming. And Berthe is the epitome of the snooty, opinionated French maid. Her facial expressions alone practically deserved their own byline. The plot’s unraveling is predictably wacky, and requires, at times, a hearty dose of suspended disbelief, which is part of the enjoyment. As with any airplane-related comedy, audiences should expect plenty of turbulence along the way.