We’ve all been there at some point in our lives – watching the rich and famous (most likely on television, because there aren’t many of us who get a chance to see them up close and personal) and wondering how, exactly, we can live that kind of life … and how fabulous it must be to do so. Eventually, most of us outgrow this longing (I mean, doesn’t it look just exhausting?) but the fascination with these people and their lives never really goes away. As Bees in Honey Drown delves into this world – and goes all the way down to the seamy underbelly.
Evan Wyler (Knathan MacKenzie-Roy) is a first-time novelist who is contacted by the well-connected, well-spoken and utterly fabulous music producer Alexa Vere de Vere (Cristine M. Loffredo) with a proposal that seems too good to be true – $1,000 a week to travel with and get to know her, and then write her life story as a screenplay for a big Hollywood blockbuster, with the possibility that, once this project is finished, she’ll get his book turned into a movie, as well. He falls headlong into her world, filled with celebrities, expensive clothes, food and nightlife, until things turn out to be not exactly what they seemed – and he’s left to unravel who, exactly, Alexa is.
It’s hard to get a handle on this play. Act One drags while Act Two shines; they have a very different feel to them altogether (through no fault of anyone at the theater – this is very much a writing issue.) I think at least half an hour (or even more) could have been cut from the show by an editor with a keen eye before the play even made it to publication and the show would have been better for it – it feels very bloated in places where it would have benefitted from being crisper and tighter.
However, the cast and crew at Schenectady Civic do fine work with the production. The set is stark and has a modern art feel, mirroring the talk of art and reinvention in the script; costume and set changes are frequent but both go off without a hitch.
Both Mackenzie-Roy and Loffredo suffer from the pace of the writing in Act One, but are allowed to show their chops in Act Two – especially Loffredo, whose scene with Jason Biszick as Michael, a friend from her past, watching old movies and mimicking the characters was brilliant. Loffredo has a massive amount of work to do in this show, and she doesn’t miss a step – director Mark Stephens chose well in deciding to cast her. Biszick was eminently likable and believably grounded as Michael – his scenes with Mackenzie-Roy were some of my favorite in the production.
I appreciate that Schenectady Civic chose a recent, relatively unknown show to produce, and it’s an intriguing (if not the most well-written) piece with strong performances from everyone involved – and these performances make it well worth your time.
“As Bees in Honey Drown,” Schenectady Civic Players, 12 South Church Street, Schenectady; through December 10; $20; Run time: 2 hours, 35 minutes with a 15-minute intermission; (518) 382-2081; https://civicplayers.org/