THEATRE REVIEW: As Bees in Honey Drown

This glittering, modern day cautionary tale is presented by Darlinghurst Theatre as part of the Mardi Gras festivities. Director James Beach has drawn forth fine performances by all concerned for this biting, witty play.
THEATRE REVIEW: As Bees in Honey Drown
' Revenge is a dish best served cold ' ' Art is eternal' 'Fame without achievement is the safest bet' This glittering, modern day cautionary tale is presented by Darlinghurst Theatre as part of the Mardi Gras festivities. Director James Beach has drawn forth fine performances by all concerned for this biting, witty play. It's all about the world of Art and fame (or lack of) and the Hollywood A-list lifestyle. It's also about Art, Life, the fine line between pain and pleasure and the heartbreak of love. Also, the elusive muse and being true to oneself. The 'bees' of the title are the almost, would-be famous who are enticed to the drowning point by the glittering lure of becoming famous. In Act 1 we see faun-like, a handsome male model, 'hot' young gay writer Evan Wyler (Garth Holcombe) at first struggling. His rising star however, captures the attention of and leads to his fateful meeting with glamorous New York socialite and heiress Alexa Vere deVere (Lucy Miller). Alexa is exciting, bubbly and intriguing, possibly a modern day Holly Golighty blended with Louise Brooks, Tallulah Bankhead, Cabaret's Sally Bowles (those huge eyes! and the black hair) and Auntie Mame but with lots of money. She's Evan's key to the world of the rich, fabulous and famous - with Alexa's guidance, Evan is soon seduced into the totally A-list world. Until... Evan's world comes crashing disastrously around him and he discovers that Alexa is not at all what she seems, and has totally swindled him. In Act 2 we see how Alexa built up her scam and what happens. Similarities could possibly be drawn with David Williamson's Up For Grabs and Baby Anger by Peter Hedges perhaps. Casting for the pivotal roles of Evan and Alexa is crucial and Beach has got it just right in Holcombe as Evan and Miller as Alexa. Lucy Miller is marvellous as Alexa. She totally dominates the stage, sizzles, bubbles and captivates us - as Kaden (I think) says in Act 2 "She's all the leading ladies I have ever loved in movies," (or words to that effect). As Evan, Holcombe charts the rise and fall of his life, from naive young unknown to savvy player terrifically. Although gay he falls helplessly for Alexa. But once he discovers her true colours, and with the help of record producer Kaden, another of her victims (Berryn Schwerdt) he sets out seeking revenge. Evan says that Alexa 'stole his arrogance' and that he would not be able to write another book but sets out to prove her wrong by publishing another book that reveals her secret background (she was originally Brenda Gelb from PA). The first act is quite cinematic in a series of vignettes. In Act 2 we meet artist Mike Stabinsky (excellently played by James Lugton) who reveals Alexa's past life to Evan. (There are some wonderful arty in-jokes here, with various sources for Mike's 'suicide' and I liked the Bridget Riley mugs). Apart from Miller and Holcombe, the rest of the cast excellently perform various multiple roles (eg punk rockers, fashion photographers, secretaries, a flamboyant clothes salesman, and various other earlier victims of Alexa). The simple set design by James Browne elegantly suggests cosmopolitan luxury or, for example, Evan's cramped lodgings when he is facing disaster in Act 2 or Mike's cluttered studio. Sophie Kurylowicz's snappy lighting design works to great effect. A dark , very thought provoking comedy on the pitfalls of fame. As Andy Warhol - one of the unseen celebrities who plays a bit part in Alexa's 'too entertaining' life would say - 'wow.' Don't miss it. AS BEES IN HONEY DROWN by Douglas Carter Beane DARLINGHURST THEATRE 6 FEB - 7 MAR 2009 www.darlinghursttheatre.com

Lynne Lancaster

Monday 9 February, 2009

About the author

Lynne Lancaster is a Sydney based arts writer who has previously worked for Ticketek, Tickemaster and the Sydney Theatre Company. She has an MA in Theatre from UNSW, and when living in the UK completed the dance criticism course at Sadlers Wells, linked in with Chichester University.