Theatre review: Shane Mardjuki shines in fourth staging of Boeing Boeing

Oon Shu An, as a Singapore Girl in Boeing Boeing, doing impromptu yoga as (from far left) Shane Mardjuki, Bibeth Orteza and Rodney Oliveiro watch.
Oon Shu An, as a Singapore Girl in Boeing Boeing, doing impromptu yoga as (from far left) Shane Mardjuki, Bibeth Orteza and Rodney Oliveiro watch. PHOTO: COURTESY OF WILD RICE

Gut-busting performances mark Pam Oei's take on the 1960 Marc Camoletti play, Boeing Boeing, about a womaniser juggling three lovers

REVIEW /THEATRE

BOEING BOEING

Wild Rice

Victoria Theatre/Last Saturday

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The query "coffee, tea or me?" that has become an old jibe at air stewardesses is taken to its absurdist conclusion in this 1960 play by the late French playwright Marc Camoletti, translated into English by Beverley Cross and given a Singapore context by Wild Rice.

The play's lothario of a protagonist, the "born organiser" Bernard (a subdued Rodney Oliveiro) juggles the three loves of his life - calculative Jeanette of Singapore Airlines (a spunky, true-to-type Oon Shu An), pragmatic Jayanthi of Air India (the remarkably assured Rebekah Sangeetha Dorai, a recent theatre graduate) and sentimental Jin Jin of Air China (the incomparable Judee Tan) - all in one apartment.

Bernard makes his motherly Filipino flunkey Rosa (a masterful Bibeth Orteza) complicit in his deceit.

  • BOOK IT / BOEING BOEING

  • WHERE: Victoria Theatre, 9 Empress Place

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

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

Change in his life comes in the form of his old university mate Robert Toh (Shane Mardjuki), who visits him from Kuching after 15 years, as well as with "super- Boeing" planes that enable the three Js to arrive quicker than usual.

So when the tightly timed flight schedules he tracks do not allow for sandstorms, staff swops and job promotions, he has to confront the consequences of his, as Camoletti puts it, "polygamous despotism".

Under director Pam Oei's sure, deft and brassy ministrations, the fourth outing of this play in Singapore is as refreshing as a hot face towel, with the cast's slick repartee rife with zip and zing.

A pity, then, that Camoletti's one-liners are mostly lame, including "The unexpected… is what is not expected". Thus is the script high entertainment of low-brow intellect.

Orteza stole every scene she was in, leading the audience to yell out her punchline, "It's not eeeea-sy!", with her whenever Bernard demanded she cover for him for the nth time.

Tan's Chinese mainlander accent was uncanny, but, as always, her real gift was in striking the sweet spot between exaggeration and excess.

It was, perhaps, a bridge too far to have her match her mangled vowels with swishy gongfu-like poses, such as when she thrust two bottles of Tsingtao beer at Robert.

But this evening, even Tan was outshone by Mardjuki, who was seemingly effortless in his portrayal of the play's most textured character. His flits between being a loyal friend and a love rat were a hoot, but he fleshed out the moments so expertly that everyone felt for him.

The crew seemed content not to let anything get in the way of the gut-busting performances, hence the serviceable lighting and a set recycled from Wild Rice's most recent show, La Cage Aux Folles, although it was nifty that the jutting walls suggested the turbine of an airplane.

If you want an evening of easy laughs, polished professionalism and sheer buoyancy, Oei's reimagining of Boeing Boeing is just the ticket.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 26, 2017, with the headline 'Funny lines, slickly delivered'. Print Edition | Subscribe