It’s the late 1960s, and rapid advances in air travel have turned the world on its head. What a great time to plan a French farce.
Center Stage at Southampton Cultural Center opens its 10th season this weekend with Marc Camoletti’s “Boeing Boeing,” running Oct. 20 through Nov. 5, the story of swinging bachelor Bernard who’s engaged to three international airline stewardesses, and has plans to lead secret separate lives with each of them at his flat in Paris.
But Bernard isn’t counting on the newer, faster Boeing 747, which throws his perfectly planned timing totally out of whack.
Director Michael Disher has spent the past several weeks of rehearsals embracing all things comedy.
“You’ve just gotta fly through it, make it as quick as possible, almost slapstick to a degree, very physical,” he said of the play. “I love doing comedies. You have to let go of any vanity, ego, posturing and posing, and have to abandon any sort of self-worth. You have to play it for the joke.”
While East End audiences may not be familiar with “Boeing Boeing,” the play, whose 2008 Broadway revival won two Tony Awards, holds the distinction of being the most-produced French play in the United States, followed not far behind by its sequel, “Don’t Dress for Dinner,” said Mr. Disher.
“It’s a very fun show,” he said. “When there are more doors on the sets than actors, you are looking for trouble. You can count on chaos there.”
This production stars Dane DuPuis, Shannon DuPuis, Samantha Honig, John Leonard, Catherine Maloney and Josephine Wallace.
“I’ve worked with all of them before. You would think that a smaller cast is easier, but when it comes to comedy, nothing is ever easy,” said Mr. Disher.
An added twist to the comedy is the variety of nationalities represented on stage. The international stewardesses include an American flying for TWA, a German stewardess with Lufthansa and an Italian stewardess flying for Alitalia. To top that off, a French maid works in the apartment they all share.
“We’re now at the point where we don’t think about the accents,” he said of the rehearsals. “There are so many layers to this comedy. It’s as delicate as phyllo pastry. It has to read as just absolutely unabashed.”
Mr. Disher’s spring musical this past season, “Promises, Promises,” also focused on 60s-era relationship hijinks.
“I keep going back to the 1960s. It was a nicer era,” he said. “I hope to have people laughing for all the right reasons — to maybe not talk about the news for a couple hours, block out the world and just belly laugh. For me, that’s one of the greatest medicines and tonics everyone can take.”
For the theater company’s 10th anniversary, Mr. Disher and his team cooked up a great variety in programs, from this fall’s comedy to their new classic 1940s radio play version of A Christmas Carol, to Beth Henley’s deadly serious “Crimes of the Heart,” capping off the season “throwing caution to the wind” with Disney’s musical production of “Beauty and the Beast.”
“I want to make people laugh. I want families to come. I want people to feel nostalgic and I want people to have the opportunity to see a really really good drama,” said Mr. Disher, who said the years have flown by since Center Stage’s first production, “The Fantasticks,” in 2008.
“The idea that theater could happen here just slowly grew,” he said. “That’s how you learn to grow — stumble, fumble, take giant steps, and always keep an eye on the future.”
“Boeing Boeing” opens Oct. 20, with Thursday and Friday performances at 7 p.m., Saturday performances at 8 p.m. and Sunday matinees at 2:30 p.m. through Nov. 5.
General admission tickets are $25. Student tickets (under 21 with ID) are $15. Dinner/Theatre packages at Plaza Café are available Thursdays through Saturdays. Tickets and Dinner/Theatre packages may be purchased online at www.scc-arts.org or by calling 631.287.4377.