presented by The F.U.D.G.E. Theatre Company
by Douglas Carter Beane
directed by Joe DeMita
Review by Craig Idlebrook
(Boston) Sometimes, the most frustrating performance to watch is one where you can see the potential. F.U.D.G.E Theatre Company’s production of As Bees in Honey Drown has all the ingredients for a devastating critique on our fame-hungry society, but the individual parts of the show do not add up to a good production, and the audience is left to ponder what could have been.
This production is filled with near-misses, beginning with the handling of the script. Douglas Carter Beane’s take on the enticing mirage of fame is clearly dated for a time before Twitter and reality shows made the concept of celebrity for its own sake as common as scratch-tickets, but his dialogue is filled with witty promise. The play focuses on an almost-famous writer, Evan Wyler (Ryan MacPherson), who falls under the spell of a name-dropping woman of mystery, Alexa Vere de Vere (Linda Goetz), who seems connected to everyone worth knowing. She hires him to write her life story and she takes him under her wing to teach how to be famous, but there is much she’s revealing. The script still could resonate with the right production, much like Glengarry Glen Ross, but director Joe DeMita fails to craft the right tone, and the production wavers between over-the-top satire and an underplayed coming-of-age tale. In the end, the whole thing feels as socially relevant as a craigslist scam, something that is universally-experienced, but lacking in meaning.
This cast displays F.U.D.G.E’s ethos for enthusiasm on stage, but it fails to build something more. MacPherson has an everyman appeal and could have led us through the whirl of a different world, a la Chris O’Donnell in Scent of a Woman, but he pushes for his emotions on stage. His performance gains traction in the second act when his character is more subdued, showing is potential when he can relax into his emotions. Goetz’s performance is devastating at some moments and caricature in others, but watching the scene where she transforms before our eyes from a small-town girl into a leach of the art world is worth the price of admission alone.
Her performance at times carries the play, but it is not enough to resolve the hurdles of theme and pacing in this production. To be devastating, satire must be crisp and clear-eyed, either going subtle or going big. This production shoots for somewhere in between, and we are left to pick up the pieces and try and affix meaning.