With virtually seamless transitions, we almost take for granted the fact that four actors -- Tanya Bravo, Tom Wahl, Michael Warga and Stephanie McNeil -- portray twenty characters. (Beane specifically fashioned this into his script.) The cast exhibits not only a notable reserve of energy and versatility but an aptitude (with the help of costume designer Penny Koleos Williams) for physical mutability. Bravo, in particular, possesses a remarkable ability to metamorphose; she was a standout as twelve-year-old Ruthie in New Theatre's The Book of Ruth. The actors' voices grow more uniform and declamatory and later are mixed with prerecorded voices, including Alexa's, that reiterate the lies, promises, and stories she told in the first half of the play. This produces an incantatory and ultimately hallucinatory effect that combines with the subtle but moody lighting of Thomas Salzman to create a visual portrait of Evan's psychological state.
Fortunately As Bees in Honey Drown does not drown in its own metaphor. Although the comedy and surprises never stop, Evan's transformation at the play's conclusion is comparable to that of any forceful drama. Hats off to the Caldwell for not boxing itself into one type of repertoire. As Bees in Honey Drown is a far leap, in both content and production, from Over the River and Through theWoods or A Delicate Balance (two earlier shows). At the Caldwell, variety seems to be as high a priority as quality, and South Florida's theatergoers can be grateful for that.
Although Evan (Mark Heimann) prefers men, he's drawn like a bee to Alexa (Kim Cozort)
Through August 27. Wednesday through Saturday at 8:00 p.m.; matinee Sunday at 2:00 p.m. Written by Douglas Carter Beane. Directed by Kenneth Kay. Starring Tanya Bravo, Kim Cozort, Mark Heimann, Tom Wahl, and Michael Warga.
Ironically Alexa may have the last say. Look for Bees at a cinema near you. The New York buzz is it that agents were clamoring for screenplay rights at the Big Apple premiere, with plans for none other than Madonna (the queen of self-invention) to play Alexa.