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As Long as We Remember...

March 29, 2011

The Laugh-Out Loud Miracle of Tad Janes

Roy Meachum

If you want an evening laughing your guts out, get on down to the old Francis Scott Key Hotel where M.E.T.’s Tad Janes has staged a knock-your-socks-off “Boeing Boeing.”


Of course the director has help, players who do much better than good. Superb is not a word I use appraising any performance, but maybe that word applies as well.


This is the Maryland Ensemble Theatre’s absolutely most professional show since the group started 14 years ago. And Frederick’s best production since I moved to town as a Washington critic in 1983. The only competitor was the late Steve Bomango’s “Cabaret,” and I saw that several weeks after opening when Steve, his crew and the actors had time to smooth wrinkles out. This “Boeing Boeing” sparkled at Saturday’s press opening and official premiere.


The slam-dunk plot spins around an English architect who practices in Paris, which was the setting for the original presentation, written by the France’s Marc Camoletti, translated for the London stage; it had a very successful Broadway outing.


I once got in trouble in Washington’s National Theatre for blasting an English comedy with farce pretensions. “Boeing Boeing” ascends in direct line from Georges Feydau’s early 20th century “A Flea in Her Ear” that was my introduction to the French concept of farce.


Architect Bernard (Jack Evans) has this neat game of serial monogamy with three flight attendants going: America’s TWA Janet (Maura Lacy), Air France’s Jacqueline (Ashley Hall) and Air Japan’s Jun (Momo Nakurma). The romance blossoms because two of them are out of town when Bernard’s toasts one magnificently; Mr. Evans measures up to this cast’s solidness – and silliness.


When their very high heels first clicked on the Francis Scott Key’s lower level, I thought they were cast for such good-looking legs, all three. Then I learned. They are fantastic actresses, each in her own right. Karen Paone-McDonald as Bernard’s lady of all domestic chores plays straight woman to the whole motley crew, and, of course, indulges in comic tricks, now and again. She’s M.E.T.’s go-to woman and she never falls on her face.


Thurmont’s Jeff Keilholtz first caught my eye in M.E.T.’s “Dracula.” Frankly, I didn’t know what to make of his minor character; I recognized immediately his major, major talent. Tad Janes lets it show in the current show. No director could possibly stage actor Keilholtz constant busy-ness, pratfalls or inspired lunacy that never permits the evening to sag; on the other hand, when performance demands his silence and total inertia, he does that, too.


The Frederick County young man is far from the single excuse to buy a ticket and they must be going fast on the word-of-mouth from audiences from the opening performances. The Tad Janes’ laugh out-loud miracle flies off – pun intended – Saturday, April 16.


“Boeing Boeing,” to repeat, is the finest production in Frederick since I came up from Washington in 1983. If you don’t care for theatre, but enjoy a great guffaw, don’t miss it.


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