High Octane Cast Fuels ‘Boeing, Boeing’

Bernard is living the life.  He’s a successful architect, living in Paris and is engaged to not one. . .not two. . .but three gorgeous air hostesses.  With the preciseness of their schedules, Bernard has been able to keep each fiancée oblivious to the others, but when an old childhood friend comes to visit and faster planes and mishaps throw off the hostesses’ schedules, Bernard’s perfect world comes crashing down around him.  This is the plot of Boeing, Boeing, currently playing at the Omaha Community Playhouse.

Boeing, Boeing is the epitome of farce.  Doors constantly opening and closing.  Characters coming and going.  Caricatures, physical comedy, and broad performances.  It takes great acting ability and direction to be so ridiculous and yet maintain a modicum of believability and this cast brings this ability in spades along with the expert direction of Carl Beck.

Anthony Clark-Kaczmarek plays Bernard, the lothario architect.  Ostensibly the straight man of the show, Clark-Kaczmarek’s performance took a little time to get out of the gate.  I suspected that I should dislike this guy.  After all, he’s cavorting around with three women and has no qualms about it.  However, Clark-Kaczmarek’s natural likability seemed to thwart the oiliness of his character at the top of the show.

But once the fiancées start showing up at the same time, Clark-Kaczmarek really revs things up.  With reactions he throws his whole body into and masterful line delivery, Clark-Kaczmarek unleashes an uproariously humorous performance and comes off as a man who is truly going to snap under the pressure of trying to escape from his hilarious predicament.

Monty Eich is absolutely pitch perfect as Robert.  A shy, repressed romantic, Robert has arrived in Paris to visit Bernard and get married himself.  In Eich’s capable hands, Robert comes off as a dithering, stuttering, overly nervous nerd whose clothes would scream if they were any louder.  But Robert isn’t your stereotypical nice guy.  He does have a bit of dog in him as he eagerly pursues Bernard’s German fiancée, Gretchen, after she mistakenly kisses him and engages in a humorous make-out session with Gloria, Bernard’s American fiancée.

Eich is also a master of physical comedy as he falls, slips on chairs, and gets beaten by bags.  His antics practically steal every scene he’s in.  That being said, some of his bits seemed forced into the show as opposed to being organic.

MaryBeth Adams is an utter delight as Berthe, Bernard’s world weary maid.  She’s sarcastic, acerbic, and a pessimist, but, heavens, is she loyal.  Ms Adams’ portrays Berthe as a woman who knows what side her bread is buttered on as she reluctantly, but ably, helps her boss handle the constant comings of his fiancées and caters to their unique tastes in the kitchen.  Despite Berthe’s crusty exterior, Ms Adams successfully injects some humanity into this character’s acidic nature to keep her from being a battleaxe.

Courtney Stein plays Gloria, Bernard’s American fiancée.  Indeed she is the most vapid and shallow of the trio with a philosophy and personality very similar to Robert’s own.  Ms Stein marvelously plays up Gloria’s egoism as she boldly declares that the woman gives the orders in the house and the man’s job is to provide for the mistress whether by choice or court order.  She is a touch on the amoral side as she willingly believes in kissing complete strangers just for practice since there is no emotional connection and clearly values money over love.  Ms Stein’s unbelievable energy truly makes this performance a treat for all.

Jennifer Gilg is Gabriella, Bernard’s Italian fiancée.  Of all the characters in this play, Gabriella is the one most grounded in reality.  Ms Gilg plays this role with just the right touch of hot temper, but this is the one person who truly seems to love Bernard.  She never makes a pass at Robert, capitulates to Bernard’s demands to go out in the country despite not wanting to, and only grows frustrated with Bernard when his peculiar behavior finally drives her to the breaking point.

When Teri Fender enters the play as Gretchen, Bernard’s German fiancée, the energy gets kicked up a few notches.  At first, she seems like she’ll be the nicest of the fiancées, but quickly reveals she’s going to wear the pants in any relationship as she explodes with anger on the turn of a dime when Robert begins to pursue her after a mistaken kiss.  With effortless changes from sweet to tart and a crackling chemistry with Eich, Ms Fender’s performance had audience members rolling in the aisles.

With stellar performances from a brilliant ensemble, steady, sharp, direction, and a beautiful set designed by Jim Othuse, Boeing, Boeing shapes up to be a late season comedic hit.

Boeing, Boeing is performed at the Omaha Community Playhouse, located at 6915 Cass St in Omaha, NE, through May 11.  Performances are Wed-Sat at 7:30pm and Sundays at 2pm.  (Note:  There is no performance on Easter Sunday (April 20)).  Tickets are $35 ($21 for students).  For tickets, contact the Playhouse at 402-553-0800.

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What Do I See?

A short while ago, I wrote an article on the power of perception which discussed the idea that how actors are seen dictates if and how they are cast.  I’ve said that an actor exerts very little control over this aspect of the business and that is certainly true.  But how an actor perceives himself or herself certainly dictates the types of roles she or he pursues.
 
Some actors only see themselves as leading characters and will only accept a role of that type.  Others may prefer the sidekick/second banana role.  Still more may be willing to accept a role of any kind.
 
When it comes to me, I always seek out the most challenging role.  In my experience, that role is usually something other than the leading role.  So, in a sense, I am probably a character actor, though I think what I pursue is something more than that and somewhat defies a description.
 
If I were to put it into words, I would call myself a storyteller.  This is why I prefer John Merrick to Frederick Treves, Billy Bibbit to Randall McMurphy, and Renfield to Count Dracula.  I really don’t have a particular taste as I will always look for the role that intrigues me, though I do seem to have a predilection for characters that exhibit great strength of spirit.
 
Since I view myself as a storyteller, the size of my part does not matter.  I just want the challenge.  If I thought the leading role in a play was the most difficult one, then that is what I would pursue.  If I thought a character with no lines was the most challenging role, then that is the role that I would want.  With the pursuit of the challenge, a wide plethora of roles is available to me.
 
Not that I will do any role that comes my way.  I have refused roles in the past because I didn’t think they had the difficulty which I seek or just didn’t think myself well suited to the role.  As my abilities as an actor have grown and evolved, I have become a little choosier in what I will do.  For example, at this point in my avocation, the odds of me taking a supernumerary role aren’t particularly high.  Just like in climbing the corporate ladder where you have to work from the bottom up, I believe a role like that needs to go to an inexperienced, untested performer to give her or him a chance to show some grace and aplomb. 
 
As to my style. . .well, I’d like to consider myself a naturalistic actor.  I try to imagine what I would do if I were to find myself in the same situation that that character does and react accordingly.  Sometimes I think I’m too realistic as I need to work a little harder at being over the top when it comes to farce since my instinct is to play things as believably as I can even when my character may be in the midst of an unbelievable situation.
 
My perception of how I’m often cast is that directors tend to cast me in characters that seem to reflect my real personality.  Though, over the past few years, I’ve managed to start obtaining roles different to myself such as the loutish drunkard, Eric Birling, in An Inspector Calls and the adult version of Don Browning in Leaving Iowa.  Rest assured, child Don was very much me and probably the most fun I’ve had being me on stage.
 
And it’s not that I haven’t enjoyed playing the characters who reflect the real me.  I’ve loved them all.  But I’m me every day so I already know I can do that.  In order to continue my growth as an actor, I have to show the sides of me that aren’t seen very much.  This is why I’ll often try a different take on a “me” character to make it a little less “me” when I’m playing that type of role.
 
When I first got started in this business, I didn’t understand what acting was all about.  I felt I had to feel like I was doing something in order to be acting and this road, unquestionably, led to being perceived as a poor performer.
 
Along the road I met those who helped me understand that I didn’t have to feel like I was doing something, I just had to do it.  That is what helped me to become a stronger actor over the years.  Learning to trust my instinct and be in the moment also helped me to achieve that truly rare feat of altering perceptions of me as a bad actor.  Mind you, I didn’t consciously set out to do this.  I just did it because I kept trying, working, practicing, and learning.  My conscious goal was simply to get roles.
 
The theatre season is fully cast and, for the first time in years, I didn’t do a show.  It wasn’t that long ago that I would consider that a failure and the frustration would be weighing on my shoulders like a ton of bricks.  But my perception of me has changed and I now accept myself as a good, capable actor. 
 
There’ll always be another show.  And I’ll be offering directors all of me which is the only thing I can give.  My instinct.  My effort.  My imagination.  My interpretation.  When it comes to casting me, directors may not always agree with me, but they will know that they got the best me.

McNeill Stone Mansion: Oskaloosa’s Fortress of Solitude

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My eyes fell upon this bed and breakfast while I was preparing my hunt list and once they did, I immediately moved it to the top of my visitation list and I certainly am glad I did so.  My stay at the McNeill Stone Mansion has proved to be one of my most enjoyable visits to date.

This trip was blessed from the start.  On a day that was supposed to be cloudy and cool, I ended up getting a proper spring day, full of sunshine and warmth.  I arrived in Oskaloosa a little earlier than I intended, but found that they had a college (William Penn University) nearby.  I wandered around the tiny campus for a little bit and even managed to get a small workout in as I did two miles on the indoor track in the school’s fitness center.

From there I attended worship services at St Mary’s.  I was fortunate to be attending the school’s First Communion service and it warmed my heart to see these children begin another step on their journey with God.  Most interesting, the children actually prepared the communion wafers used at this service.  They were just made out of wheat and water and Father Jeff said they would be different from traditional wafers.

He was quite right in that aspect, but I liked the message he tied it to after Communion.  Father Jeff said that people’s faces seemed to indicate, “Whoa!  That was different” and he said people are just like that when they allow Jesus into their hearts.  And he hoped that people would see us and say, “Whoa!  He or she is different.”  I’ve never heard the message of salvation so simply and aptly put.  Right on, Father Jeff!!

After church, I headed over to the McNeill Stone Mansion which is an imposing edifice at the end of a block.  I was heartily greeted by Ginny Walker who gave me a tour of the inn.  Ginny really knew her history, showing me articles and photos from when the mansion was originally built up until the present day.  At one point, the home had been abandoned for 18 years and was buried beneath an overgrowth of trees until Ginny and her husband, Gary, bought it and spent 7 years restoring it to its original splendor as pictured below.

Dining Room

Dining Room

Foyer

Foyer

Living Room

Living Room

 

I stayed in the Far East Room which was the mansion’s guest room when originally built.

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This room was a palace.  By far, the biggest room I have ever stayed at a bed and breakfast and one of the nicest, as well.

Once I had settled in and relaxed for a few hours, I headed into town and enjoyed a meal at Tasos’ Steakhouse.  This must be a popular restaurant as it was jammed to the rafters.  Fortunately, I was able to be seated very quickly.  I decided to try Tasos’ House Ribeye sautéed with onions, mushrooms, and green peppers.  It was one of the best cuts of meat I have had in a while.  It was cooked to absolute perfection and I took most of it to go for my lunch today.

It was about 9pm when I got back to the inn so I drew a hot bath in one of the deepest bathtubs I have ever seen and nearly fell asleep as I was so relaxed.  As I prepared for bed, I realized I had forgotten the small fan I travel with for the white noise I use to help me fall asleep.  Fortunately, the room had an electric fireplace which I turned on and the illusory flames lulled me into a deep and restful slumber.

Upon awaking the next morning, I headed down to the dining room for one of the most enjoyable breakfast experiences I’ve had in a bit.  After three straight reviews where I was the only guest at the bed and breakfast, I actually had some company.  I had the privilege of meeting Dave and Monica Settle of St Charles, MO who were visiting the McNeill Stone Mansion for their 30th anniversary.  Happy Anniversary!!  So aside from the outstanding food, I also had the pleasure of some wonderful conversation.

Breakfast was a grand affair, beginning with a dish of fruit topped off with a yogurt.  I enjoyed several bites, but knew I had to save stomach capacity for the other courses.  After the fruit, was a cinnamon roll topped with almonds that was moist and delicious and practically melted in my mouth.  Afterwards was the main course of egg casserole which looked like a quiche stuffed with ham, cheese, and other tasty items along with some bacon for a side dish.

When breakfast had been eaten, Ginny surprised the Settles with a little yellow pudding cake she had made for their anniversary.  And if you’re wondering, yes, the Settles were kind enough to share a bit of their cake with me.  It was delicious, btw.

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Before I knew it, 75 minutes had passed and I knew I  had to hurry if I were going to write up this adventure before I left.

If you find yourself in Oskaloosa, make a point of staying here.  You’ll be treated to a truly delightful pair of hosts, some excellent food, and brilliant conversation.  Even better, if you like classic cars, start up a conversation with Gary as he has a national reputation for restoring them.