By Blake Boles, Class of 2013 —
— Bernard has a problem; though what he considers a problem might be seen as a blessing by some. You see, his three drop-dead gorgeous, flight attendant fiancées are changing their schedules. Now, many a man might think, “We all have our crosses that we have to bear, the lucky so-and-so.” Problem is, they have all arrived at his Parisian flat at the same time. And not one of them knows about the other two. What follows is a raucous, shagtastic shuffling act as Bernard, his sheltered Midwestern friend Robert, and Berthe (his cantankerous, long-suffering French maid) try to shuffle the fiancées in and out without being detected. It’s overtly farcical, overtly sexual, overtly French.
You know: typical entertainment at a Jesuit institution.
We jest, of course. But in doing so are making a point: Argus Eyes, the campus drama organization, is on a mission to bring serious theater back to Saint Peter’s University; and as a result, some of the upcoming productions are bold choices. According to many, including current program director Kevin Cummines, the quality of past productions had been less than stellar. “We’re finally getting back to a standard of theater that I’m proud of, which started with our production of Hairspray” Cummines said, referring to the highly popular run of the famed musical from the previous spring. “I’m starting to feel like I can reasonably ask people to pay ten or twenty dollars to come see the shows; whereas before, that wasn’t always the case.” (Incidentally, ‘Hairspray’ was free, and open to the public).
It isn’t just the quality of productions that have elevated. The play selection this season in particular takes massive risks, especially for a private, Catholic institution. In addition to the sexually charged ‘Boeing Boeing’, February will see Argus Eyes producing ‘God of Carnage’: a caustic, black comedy set in an apartment, where four parents come together to discuss one boy’s act of knocking out the other’s teeth with a stick. This is followed up by a production of the controversial hit musical, ‘Rent’ – a show, if you’ve been frozen, which follows several New York creatives as they cope with the specter of HIV/AIDS, and the challenges of being gay or lesbian.
So, can we expect the same level of risqué subject matter from ‘Boeing Boeing’ as we will in ‘God of Carnage’ and ‘Rent’? Probably not. “It’s a mad, whirlwind of a comedy,” said Alex Perez, the director of Hairspray, and current director of ‘Boeing Boeing’. “Everything is sensual and happening at a frightening pace. It all just goes boom-boom-boom-boom-boom.” Perez frenetically snaps his fingers for emphasis.
In short, ‘Boeing Boeing’ is simultaneously lascivious while not sacrificing entertainment value. Some might say, this is both shrewd and courageous on the part of Cummines. He’s selected plays that are raw and confronting, yet have all been Broadway sellouts, turned into films, and have won Tony Awards (Boeing Boeing and God of Carnage), and even a Pulitzer Prize (Rent). In doing so, Cummines has neatly hit the most targets with his three arrows by selecting plays that will draw the masses while still being seen as legitimate ‘theater’. Wit ‘Boeing Boeing’, we just may see the resurgence of large, enthusiastic theater audiences not merely comprised of Saint Peter’s University students, but perhaps expanding out to include many Hudson County theatergoers as well. This is a big ask of Argus Eyes, but they have taken surprisingly brave steps, especially for a theater department at a Catholic institution.
But hey, we all have crosses we have to bear.
‘Boeing Boeing’ is Directed by Alex Perez and produced by Argus Eyes. It runs Nov 13th-16th, 7pm; and twice on Sunday, Nov 17th, at 2:00pm and 7:00pm in Roy Irving Theatre. Tickets will be available in early November, or by walk-up. Prices have not been set. For more information, visit: http://www.spc.edu/performingarts