Monday, April 8, 2019

review - AS BEES IN HONEY DROWN - Arizona Regional Theatre

Seth Tucker and Elyse Wolf
photo by Chloe Blinn / JALT Media
By Julia Bashaw

No one can escape the trap of sticky-sweet success. Arizona Regional Theatre's production of Douglas Carter Beane's As Bees in Honey Drown takes audiences into a story full of fame, fortune, lies, and consequences. Elyse Wolf and Seth Tucker co-lead naturally as Alexa Vere de Vere and Evan Wyler, with the ensemble portraying multiple different roles giving the production a vast amount of diversity and material.

The plot revolves around a high-class woman, Alexa Vere de Vere, who claims to be a manager who reaches out to a newly recognized writer, Evan Wyler, who has just published his first book. Flashing cash, famous names, and locations, she pulls Evan into her world. However, not everything is as it seems but Evan has already sunken in.

Elyse Wolf is comical, quick, and witty in her representation of Alexa who never stops talking. Audiences will have to listen closely to catch the tangents and transitions she goes through in her speeches. Her projection is superb with crisp and clear sound. At the performance I attended, I noticed a couple of small line stumbles but when wrapped up in the fast-paced character who talks a mile a minute they were never an issue. As Evan, Seth Tucker portrays this shy introverted writer with closed off emotions and movements. He slowly grows throughout the show upon his encounters with Alexa and it is engaging to witness. Audiences go on the journey with him as we all are captured by Alexa’s presence. Tucker exhibits a pleasant mixture of humor and vulnerability as Evan that Wolf/Alexa snaps up. The two compliment each other in a way that eases audiences into the unfamiliar story.

The ensemble makes the show feel full. This is a cast of only six, but there are 22 characters total throughout the show. Rapid costume changes, personalities, and even dramatic accent changes occur. This ensemble is dedicated and adds life to the story.

Tucker also directed the production and his blocking flows naturally. He takes advantage of every inch on the stage and creates a functional little world. The cast does not seem forced into their movements or actions but rather they look genuine. The cast takes well to Tucker's direction.

The set is quite functional in the intimate Third Street Theatre space. The entire stage is utilized and actors even use the auditorium floor for a scene. Will Snyder's set design cleverly creates over 10 locations with a few large props brought on and off stage to quickly and seamlessly change the locale. In the second act, the set even folds over to create two new locations. The transition time between scenes is fast and efficient, with the use of music for a few slightly longer scene changes, which never gets in the way of the story. Jordan Daniels' lighting uses spotlights to draw the audience’s attention at appropriate moments. Jerrad Stutzman's sound design is good with clear audio and microphones that never cut out or have static. However, at the performance I attended there were a few times where the spotlight missed its target in the first few seconds and also some confusion near the end of the show where many characters talk over each other and some aren’t even on stage. It is unclear if that was a technical issue or if that was the way the show was written.

Most of Kimberly Sheperd and Kayla Etheridge's costumes are flattering, though some of the wigs are quite obvious on a few of the characters. Shirley Ditsworth's props are well executed throughout the show with some bigger pieces that transition the stage into a bedroom, and a vinyl couch that transforms into a taxi. Creativity is seen all throughout this show and the crew really deserves a round of applause for the fast pace to the set changes.

Everyone can get stuck in the idea of having stardom and riches, but As Bees in Honey Drown really slaps audiences in the face with the reality of it all. Seth Tucker, Elyse Wolf, ensemble, and crew do a marvelous job of bringing truth into this fantasy. Arizona Regional Theatres’ production As Bees in Honey Drown will captivate audiences through April 14th, 2019

Performances at the Third Street Theatre at Phoenix Center for the Arts located at 1202 N 3rd St, Phoenix, AZ 85004. Tickets can be purchased at https://app.arts-people.com/index.php?ticketing=art or by calling 602-698-8668.

Cast Members
Evan Wyler – Seth Tucker*
Alexa Vere de Vere – Elyse Wolf*
Photographer, Swen, Royalton Clerk, Kaden – Andrew Stachurski
Ronald, Skunk, Mike – Darren Friedman
Amber, Back-up Singer, Secretary, Bethany, Ginny, A Muse – Elizabeth Grace
Waitress, Back-up Singer, Carla, Newsstand woman, Denise, Illya, A Muse – Tina Khalil
*Member of Actor's Equity Association

Production / Creative
Director – Seth Tucker
Stage Manager– Alex Acosta
Lighting Design– Jordan Daniels
Sound Design– Jerrad Stutzman
Set Design– Will Snyder
Set Dressing/Scenic Painting – Kimberly Sheperd and Kayla Etheridge
Costume Design - Kimberly Sheperd and Kayla Etheridge
Props– Shirley Ditsworth

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