Boeing Boeing plot takes flight with updates

Rodney Oliveiro (centre) takes the lead in Boeing Boeing, with fellow cast members (from left) Oon Shu An, Bibeth Orteza, Shane Mardjuki, Judee Tan and Rebekah Sangeetha Dorai.
Rodney Oliveiro (centre) takes the lead in Boeing Boeing, with fellow cast members (from left) Oon Shu An, Bibeth Orteza, Shane Mardjuki, Judee Tan and Rebekah Sangeetha Dorai. PHOTO: ANG TER SHIEN

Is it possible to juggle three lovers in the age of real-time social media notifications and relationship status updates?

Theatre group Wild Rice is convinced that the 57-year-old plot of Boeing Boeing is still relevant, as it stages the French farce for the fourth time.

The play opens on Friday at the Victoria Theatre. It is directed by Pam Oei, who in 2005 played a lovelorn stewardess with a cheating boyfriend.

Moving to the director's chair is a fantastic upgrade, says Oei, 45. "It's the best seat in the house. I get to sit down and say: 'Okay, do this scene and make me laugh.'"

Boeing Boeing is an adaptation of a 1960 French comedy about an eligible bachelor who juggles three girlfriends with hectic travel schedules. All work for different airlines.

Wild Rice changed the location to Asia and the airlines to familiar brands such as Cathay Pacific for its stagings in 2002, 2005 and 2010.

  • BOOK IT / BOEING BOEING

  • WHERE: Victoria Theatre, 9 Empress Place

    WHEN: Friday to July 22, 8pm (Tuesdays to Saturdays), 3pm (Saturdays and Sundays)

    ADMISSION: $45 to $80 from Sistic (call 6348-5555 or go to www.sistic.com.sg)

The cast this year includes Rodney Oliveiro as the gadabout Bernard, a role played in the past by Lim Yu Beng and Adrian Pang.

Oon Shu An is Jeanette, the SQ girl seeking a high-flier. Judee Tan plays Jin Jin, a stewardess with China Airlines and Rebekah Sangeetha Dorai is Jayanthi from Air India.

Accomplished Filipina actress and scriptwriter Bibeth Orteza plays Bernard's maid and mother figure, Rosa. Shane Mardjuki is Robert, Bernard's best friend.

The script has been touched up to hide its age. Landlines are replaced with cellphones, which Oei says were hard to write in.

The airlines involved have also been updated so the stewardesses reflect accents more commonly heard in Singapore today.

In her day, Oei played a Cathay Pacific employee while the late Emma Yong was Junko, the Japanese sweetheart from Japan Airlines.

Instead, the play now has Jayanthi, the expatriate Indian, and Jin Jin, the romantic girl from China. "The moment you hear these accents, you know you're in Singapore," says Oei.

But haven't social media and smartphones with video-calling functions made it impossible for partners to stray?

"There are many ways of skinning a cat," says 63-year-old Orteza. She knows of women who demand photos or videos via FaceTime from their spouses as proof that they are actually working late.

"They bring extra shirts, they make stock shots of the meeting room and when the wife asks for proof, here it is."

As Oei says, the reason stereotypes and cliches are funny is because there is a kernel of truth to them.

"What is farce? You put believable characters in unbelievable situations and exaggerate it till it all blows up."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 19, 2017, with the headline 'Boeing Boeing plot takes flight with updates'. Print Edition | Subscribe