Nick Dias looked to Don Draper for inspiration.
Dias isn’t a fan of the main character of the AMC series “Mad Men” and admits that he wouldn’t be a real-life fan of Bernard, the character he plays in Theatre Baton Rouge’s upcoming comedy, “Boeing Boeing.”
“I wouldn’t be able to stand Bernard,” Dias says, evoking laughter from fellow cast members. “He just embodies everything bad about men, especially in the way he treats women.”
Oh, but women love Bernard in the same way they fawn over Draper. Especially three gorgeous airline stewardesses, each of whom is about to say yes to the dress.
That’s right, Bernard will be engaged to three women when TBR opens Marc Camoletti’s farce on Friday, April 24. The show is set in 1960s Paris, a fertile time for Draper-like machismo.
But Bernard’s mind-set gets him into trouble, which is where the fun begins.
“Boeing Boeing” premiered on Dec. 10, 1960, in Paris and went on to have a seven-year run in London, but bombed on Broadway in 1965.
The show was revived in New York in 2008, winning a Tony Award for Best Revival of a Play.
“And it’s been made into five different movies,” director Kevin Harger says. “It has to be one of the most performed farces of our time.”
A farce’s setting — in this case, Bernard’s swinging Paris apartment — traditionally has a lot of doors.
“I have seven doors on this stage,” Harger says. “There’s always a lot of people going through different doors in a farce, with a lot of door slamming.”
The doors start slamming when Bernard’s friend Robert, played by Carlos Posas, comes to visit. Bernard seems to have the perfect setup, as none of his fiancees knows about the other.
One is a feisty Italian named Gabrielle, played by Aron Coates. The second is a sweet-spirited German named Gretchen, played By Eileen Peterson. The third is the assertive American named Gloria, played by Mallory Osigian.
But when a new and speedier Boeing jet has enabled all three to land in Paris at the same time, Bernard enlists Robert’s help in concocting lies as each shows up at the apartment. Observing the circus unfold is Bernard’s deadpan housekeeper Bertha, played by Blanche Bienvenu.
“Kevin asked us to draw inspiration from a lot of sources, including Michael Caine’s performance in ‘Dirty Rotten Scoundrels’ and George Clooney’s in ‘Ocean’s Eleven,’” Posas says.
“And ‘Man Men,’” Dias adds. “One episode was enough to get the idea. As an actor, I try not to judge my character. But as a person I, I would just hate Bernard.”
Another round of cast laughter gives way to Posas’ analysis of his character. Robert, he says, is a monied farmer who remains true to his traditional roots.
“Yet he is tempted by Bernard,” Posas says.
Then there are the three stewardesses, beginning with Gloria, who Osigian pegs as the 1960’s ideal of the modern American woman. Peterson describes Gretchen as an innocent puppy, and Coates sees a lot of herself in Gabrielle.
“She’s fiery,” Coates says. “She’s passionate, and she loves hard and from her heart. I’m from north Louisiana, and I’m fiery, too.”
And then there’s Bertha, the housekeeper who changes out the photos when each fiancee enters. She has the best seat in the house.
“She’s a foil for everything that’s going on,” Bienvenu says. “She sees these intertwinings and all of the eccentricities. This is different from anything I’ve every played.”
“And her deadpan is so funny,” Harger adds. “She has everyone laughing.”
Which is the best part for this cast — everyone is into the comedy.
“I didn’t realize that we were going to have this much fun at rehearsal,” Posas says.
Next May, Theatre Baton Rouge will stage “Don’t Dress for Dinner,” the sequel to this Draperesque comedy.