Brent Gibbs likes to tell the joke about a dying actor.
“Dying is hard,” the thespian mutters as his last breath nears.
“But farce is harder.”
Gibbs, who is directing “Boeing Boeing,” the Arizona Repertory Theatre Company’s season opener, laughs as he tells the story. Kind of.
“Boeing Boeing” is most definitely a farce. And is most definitely hard.
“In farce, you are coming up with illogical solutions to very logical problems,” Gibbs says in a phone interview.
“The characters are caught up in this whirlwind and they make these poor choices.”
And therein lies the humor. Plus lots of well-timed doors opening and closing, an element in farce that may be carved in stone somewhere.
“Boeing Boeing,” by the French playwright Marc Camoletti, first had a staging in 1960.
That was in Paris. A few years later, it opened on London’s West End and became a long-running hit. When it moved to Broadway in 1965, however, the farce fizzled.
What a difference four-plus decades make: an updated version was staged in New York in 2008 and fans flocked to it and awards started stacking up, including a Tony for Best Revival.
It’s that version that Gibbs and the cast of University of Arizona students have taken on.
The story takes place in 1960s Paris. A young man, a swinging bachelor, is engaged to three different women, who all work for different airlines. That last was key in his wooing ways — each has a different schedule, making his duplicity (triplicy?) easy.
Until their schedules change and they all run — about the same time — to what they assume will be his waiting arms.
Farce is difficult enough. Add accents to that — German, Italian, French, Texas and Wisconsin accents all play a part in the piece — and you have a complex endeavor.
Which is the point to having selected “Boeing Boeing” for Arizona Rep’s season, said Gibbs.
“Part of our training is to prepare them and give them the tools they need,” says Gibbs of the theater students.
“This is an opportunity to employ the skills they’ve already learned, and (the play) calls for skills that are vital for them to develop.”
And don’t forget this: it’s very funny.
Which should make for some giddy audiences.
“There’s a cathartic quality to laughter, to laughing at the absurdity of life” says Gibbs.
To those who roll their eyes and say farces are just so unbelievable and not relevant to them, Gibbs has this to say:
“Do you not have farce in your life?”