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Theater Review | ‘As Bees in Honey Drown’ fails to meet plot-driven potential

Published: Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Updated: Tuesday, February 5, 2013 02:02

 

The F.U.D.G.E. Theatre Company’s play “As Bees in Honey Drown” was released on Jan. 25 at The Factory Theatre. Directed by Joe DeMita and written by Douglas Carter Beane, it ran for a full two hours, with one 15-minute intermission separating the two acts. 

“As Bees in Honey Drown” questions the logistics of a creative endeavor and whether this pursuit can be upheld in the society we live in today. In simpler terms, can a writer make a living off of his or her work?

The play’s content is alluring, particularly to potential artists and —perhaps more close to home — undergraduates pursuing any liberal arts degree. The play also explores the ethics of mixing business with art, as well as the role that money plays in such a relationship — can a writer make an honest living off of his or her work? The plot doesn’t stop there. It adds elements of sexual politics, revenge and elusive fame while never providing a clear moral stance on any of these issues. Though slow-moving in the first act, the narrative frequently drops one-liners that leave viewers thinking, including, “We always have art to protect us, even if our greatest creation is ourselves,” and “Writers always have the last word, because they know so many.”

The cast, however, did not match the intrigue of the script. Though antagonist Alexa Vere de Vere had the potential to steal the show, Linda Goetz seemed to fall short when embodying the persona. Goetz’s attempt to portray Alexa as a deceptive debutante was contrived. The role called for some exaggeration, yes, but Goetz’s execution seemed to err on the side of excess. Interestingly, her much younger counterpart, protagonist Evan Wyler, was played to perfection. Ryan MacPherson seemed to take on the role with a sense of comfort that transferred to the viewers. Though MacPherson’s performance was organic, his side characters did not always follow suit. Frank Consolo lacked diversity in his various character portrayals, while Mimi Augustin did a slightly better job. There was a clear difference in ability among the cast, which threw off the unified dynamic usually sought on stage. The script was also delivered with some forgetfulness on the part of all characters. Perhaps the performance would have benefited from some further rehearsing.

Fortunately, the cast and crew had a wonderful set to aid them. Located underground, The Factory Theatre has a grungy atmosphere that initially feels alarming. In this case, however, the set serves as a manifestation of the play’s undertones. For instance, just as the play questions the importance of appearances, it takes place in a theater with a sub-par technical appearance. The issue is given another layer through this physical demonstration because the audience members must confront their own preconceptions from the moment they walk in. There are only two rows of folding chairs in the theater, with the first one on the same plane as the stage. Exposed brick composes one of the four plain walls, and the ceiling is low.

The set, likewise, was simple, yet its small details were well used. One set of doors tripled as an elevator, closet and a magazine stand. Chairs were arranged to symbolize restaurant dinners as well as limousine seats. Perhaps the best items in the room were the dim lamps that hung from the ceiling. Their strategic arrangement created shadows on the set of doors that looked like — what else? — beehives.  

As a whole, the play was enjoyable but not outstanding. It seems that the manuscript would have better served as a novel, due to the drab of the first act and unimpressive cast. The content, however, is in fact exciting, which is a potential viewer’s largest motive to see the play. If nothing else, it will undoubtedly make for a heated conversation about art, ethics and the power of words.

Note: The F.U.D.G.E. production of Douglas Carter Beane’s “As Bees In Honey Drown” played for four performances, the weekend of Jan. 25 at the Factory Theatre.

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