Wednesday, May 21, 2008

No Farce Please, We're Americans

The Broadway transfer of the British hit revival Boeing Boeing, has given many critics a platform to ponder one of the gaps in British and American theatre culture: Bedroom Farce.

Here is Leonard Jacobs:

Here is Mark Heilpern:

Without Boeing-Boeing—or No Sex Please, We’re British; Run for Your Wife; or, best title of all, When Did You Last See Your Trousers?—England, I assure you, would not be England.

TRUE, BOEING-BOEING WAS written by a Frenchman. But only
originally. Which must be why it’s set in Paris. Nothing wrong with that. Some of the best Feydeau farces are set in Paris. Also, Molière.

Boeing-Boeing, by the Italian-sounding Frenchman Marc Camoletti,
proved so popular in its 1962 British version that it ran for a record seven years in the West End and made the Guinness Book of World Records. The reason it transferred so successfully to London is because it isn’t a clever farce in the French tradition. The British distrust cleverness, particularly in the bedroom: One does not shag wittily.

Americans, on the other hand, tend to treat farce as an acquired
taste. When Boeing-Boeing first came to Broadway in 1965, it lasted for 23 miserable performances. But then, it didn’t have Mark Rylance. (Nor did the deadly film version—also from 1965—starring Tony Curtis and Jerry Lewis.)

Puritan America has never quite appreciated the vast appetite of
the bourgeois British theatergoer for sex and silliness. Farce enables the traditionally reserved Brits to jettison their inhibitions and sexual guilt—and have a good belly laugh at themselves. The antic genre revolves round spiraling panic and embarrassment about being caught with your pants down.

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