Theatre Mirror Reviews - "As Bees in Honey Drown"

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"What Happened in Boston, Willie"


entire contents copyright 2007 by Tony Annicone

"As Bees in Honey Drown"

Reviewed by Tony Annicone

Foothills Theatre's current show is "As Bees in Honey Drown" which is a comedy about the pitfalls of the unquenchable hunger for fame. eager almost-famous painters, singers, musicians, business managers, and, of course, authors-the occupation of the protagonist of this play-are displayed as easily trapped victims of con artists who promise big, but empty, dreams. Hot, young thing-of-the-moment Evan Wyler is savoring the success of his debut novel, when into his life comes the fabulous and mysterious Alexa Vere de Vere, a force of nature who conjures up the images of Sally Bowles, Louise Brooks, Auntie Mame and Holly Golightly. Alexa wants Evan to write the biography of her amazing life and soon introduces him to a world that really is too good to be true. Alexa is pretty, intelligent, and creative. But she is also very crooked. However, she wouldn't be as successful as she is if so many people weren't willing to take the shortcut to fame and fortune that she offers them. She is determined to transform Evan from an earnest struggling artist into a suave and savvy player, exactly the right man to pen the screenplay of her life. Even though Evan proclaims he is gay, he falls in love with Alexa and finds out that he is not the only one that has fallen under spell. He also finds out success isn't all it is cracked up to be. Evan's world comes tumbling down around him when he learns she has swindled him out of $20,000. He vows revenge upon this evil woman and eventually obtains it by uncovering her secret background, proving her proclamation that he will never write another book because she has ruined him forever to be wrong. The pen is mightier than the sword in this show. Director Russell Garrett casts six extremely talented performers in this show. It is a series of vignettes, the first act tells the story of how Alexa entraps Evan in her web and the second tells the story of how the good guy wins out over his very treacherous enemy. The show contains superb acting by this multitalented cast with its massive amounts of dialogue and terrific characterizations, too.

Russell keeps the show moving quickly from one scene to the next with his expert direction which keeps the interest of the audience from start to finish. Although the first act contains a lot of exposition, the ending of it jolts the crowd out of its seats with the violent and realistic beating up of Evan by a disgruntled rock singer who Alexa cheated out of his money. The second act delves into how Alexa came into being and how she cheated untold people out of their money but Evan is the only one to ever try to exact revenge upon her. Playing the enormous leading role of Alexa is pretty blonde Dayle Ballentine who wears a severe black wig. Originally from Connecticut, Dayle lives in Lexington, MA with her husband and two sons. She is awesome in this role with her delivery of rapid fire lines as she seduces Evan with flattery and in the second act, Alexa who was plain old Brenda Gelb from PA, listens to old movies of "Auntie Mame", "Breakfast at Tiffany's" and "Cabaret" where she becomes these characters in real life. Alexa tries to justify her actions by saying "You're not the person you were born. Who wonderful is? You're the person you were meant to be." A new villain of untold proportions is Alexa and Dayle is fantastic, making it into a must see performance. Playing Evan is Dan Whelton from Manchester, CT. He captures the essence of this young naive man perfectly and as Evan, he is sucked into the web of lies that he is told while he reveals his own weaknesses to this awful woman which she eventually uses against him. However after Evan is beaten up, he becomes determined to overcome these obstacles and take Alexa down once and for all. Dan shows the transition that Evan makes from start to finish wonderfully. Although it is his debut performance at Foothills, Dan has performed in many shows in CT. Both leads compliment each other and do topnotch work in this dark comedy.

The other four performers play multiple roles and are excellent in them, too. Christopher Michael Brophy plays three different roles and makes them each unique. He first plays Roland, a flamboyant clothes salesman clad in a pink suit jacket, then he plays Skunk, a drugged out rock star who violently attacks Evan and finally plays Mike, the artist who reveals Alexa's past life to Evan to help him exact his revenge as well as finally letting the audience in on what as bees in honey drown really means. Christopher James Webb plays several roles, too including the photographer who convinces Evan that sex sells by convincing him to remove his shirt for the magazine photos and Kaden, a record producer who was swindled many years before by Alexa. Kaden helps Evan realize that Alexa has taken advantage of many, many other people, too. Amanda Ferguson plays several roles including the dippy photo assistant, Amber who just wants to dance as well as Kaden's haughty secretary who knows it all, Ginny, a young violinist who takes off her blouse for a photo shoot and Bethany, one of Alexa's victims. Merrill Peiffer also plays several roles including the newsstand woman who phones the cops when Skunk is beating Evan up and Illya who was another one of Alexa's victims. So for a thought provoking comedy that shows that fame isn't all it is cracked up to be, make sure you catch this witty and entertaining "As Bees in Honey Drown" which contains adult themes and language.

"As Bees in Honey Drown" (20 October - 11 November)
THE WORCESTER FOOTHILLS THEATER
100 Front Street, WORCESTER MA
1 (508)754-3314

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