Sweet, sticky success
As Bees in Honey Drown
It’s no secret that we, as a society, are obsessed with our celebrities. Admit it, you’ve had at least one conversation about Tom Cruise’s creepy romance with Katie Holmes. This reviewer admits, without shame, to having discussed these and other topics extensively. In response to the national pastime, Douglas Carter Beane’s As Bees In Honey Drown, presented by Brüka Theatre, holds up the mirror to our own gaping, gossip-hungry faces, and what we see isn’t pretty.
The story begins as Evan Wyler (Scott Reeves), a young, gay Jewish writer, is still waiting to make the transition from almost-famous to true celebrity after the debut of his moderately successful novel.
When the dazzling, flamboyant Alexa Vere de Vere (Mary Bennett) meets him to suggest that he write the story of her life—and throws wads of cash in his direction—Wyler is quickly seduced by her charms. Vere de Vere says she’s a well-to-do music producer, and Wyler tags along on whirlwind shopping sprees and limousine rides, taking notes and developing a taste for luxury. Eventually, he even falls for her, but it turns out that she’s merely a scam artist, conning each season’s hot young things for as much as their credit cards are worth.
Heartbroken and furious, Wyler does a little investigating and discovers that he’s by no means the first to fall prey to her schemes. He is, however, the first victim who’s angry enough to get revenge. Is Wyler wily enough to beat Vere de Vere at her own game?
This boisterous, satirical play demands high-energy performances, and, for the most part, gets them. Bennett’s Vere de Vere is a manic, over-the-top sexpot who simply doesn’t know when to stop. Nor do we want her to, when her mangled French phrases and stream-of-consciousness sentences are so much fun (to say nothing of her wickedly goth hair and clothes).
Reeves, as Wyler, is limited by his role as gay straight man. His job is to react to Vere de Vere’s outrageous antics with equal parts incredulity, amusement, adoration and rage.
The hardworking supporting-cast members do a good job with multiple roles. Joseph Blaine, in particular, is both entertaining as a sleazy suit salesman and likable as the frustrated painter who helped create Alexa Vere de Vere.
The story, set in the world of the A-list movers and shakers, calls for several continents’ worth of accents, which aren’t all equally successful. The actors deserve credit for the sheer amount of work their roles demand. And the minimalist, all-black set, with black-and-white photos of New York street scenes, is a perfectly understated counterpart to the larger-than-life performances.
In a study on society’s obsession with celebrity, it’s fitting that there’s more froth than story here.
“Fame without achievement is the safest bet I know,” drawls Alexa at one point.
The scam/revenge plot is nothing new, and Wyler’s convenient change of sexuality—and equally effortless return—are there to move the story along, not to deepen our understanding of his character. However, a fascinating scene in the second act, detailing Alexa’s evolution from humble beginnings to cartoonish celebrity, is both insightful and sharply funny.
Whether you’re waiting impatiently for the newest issues of all the tabloids or sick to death of America’s celebrity mania, you’ll get along famously with As Bees In Honey Drown.