As Bees in Honey Drown at Boulevard Theatre
According to the show’s press release, “This sassy delight tells the tale of a mysterious young widow seducing an innocent writer and teaching him lessons about life, success and the cynical side of celebrity.”
Perfunctory PR jargon aside, Douglas Carter Beane’s play is better summed up in a paraphrase: all the world’s a stage and the men and women merely cons.
As Bees in Honey Drown is well written, with wit and wisdom. It’s easy for audiences to identify with the characters; we all con and have been conned – whether by enhancing Internet profiles or through a partner, business or significant other who absconds with money and/or one’s soul. Ultimately, we all want to be conned.
Beane’s con here is New York City celebrity Alexa Vere de Vere (Ericka Wade, a Boulevard regular), who seduces gay novelist Evan Wyler (David Geisler, a new face in this venue). The play’s gay guy goes to extreme lengths to get his fame and inadvertent loss of innocence.
Director Mark Bucher adroitly casts according to an actor’s range. Both the leading and supporting roles give the script its due. Wade’s Alexa epitomizes the manipulative diva – annoyingly self-centered to the observer but mesmerizing to an admirer. Geisler coolly portrays naïve ambition then transitioning to victim and then finally to life-savvy realist.
Marion Araujo, Melissa Keith, Tom Mertz-Dillon, Anthony O’Malley, and Kate Sherry play a myriad of utility characters. Mertz-Dillon particularly stands out as a sympathetic in his role of Mike Stabinsky, Evan Wyler’s suitor, as do Araujo and Sherry in their various roles.
The unlikely straight and gay love scene is puzzling. One has to sort out playwright Beane’s intent and director Bucher’s interpretation. Does love conquer all – even sexual identity? Or, does blind end-justifying-the-means ambition (plus gay 20-something testosterone) allow for dabbling?
The dialectic can be hashed out over after-theater drinks.
Bucher delivers a dose or two of his quirky hallmarks including Queer Eye-manner shtick. But with patience, they work. The two-hour run time (with one intermission) passes quickly via well-paced timing.
The Boulevard’s opening production deserves a recommended rating and, hopefully, portends a successful 24th season for this mainstay of the Milwaukee theater circuit.
As Bees in Honey Drown runs July 29 through Saturday, August 29th at the Boulevard Theater (2252 South Kinnickinnic in Milwaukee-Bay View). Call 414-744-5757 for reservations. See www.boulevardtheatre.com for performance schedule. You can always find the latest local stage info. at Footlights Milwaukee.