Tuesday, July 28, 2009

As Bees In Honey Drown

Douglas Carter Beane wrote a play. Apparently, it was a critical success. Frankly, I just don't see it. I felt myself predicting the end halfway through. There were some funny monologues, some cute interchanges. But it was so..."theatrey." So that's not a word.

Maybe I'm sheltered but I have a really hard time imagining that someone like Alexa Vere de Vere exists. And, of course, I understand that's the point of the play. Characters are drawn to Alexa because she seems to be from another reality, a more glamorous time for artists and thinkers and, well, humans. One character even goes so far as to say that people believe her lies because they want them to be true. I feel like there are some deep-ish moments that linger with you. "As bees in honey drown" is a particularly lasting line.

Bu she is just too over-the-top for me. The tragedy is that this all borders on the comedic. According to the ever-reliable Wikipedia, this is a satire. Sure, ok. But can it satirize itself? It goes too far into the world of frothy dialogue and New York socialites and fur coats and "daaaaaaaahling" for me to feel any kind of real pain for Evan or Alexa in their individual downfalls. The glibness robs it of any true kind of dramatic power.

The play centers around the concept of identity. "No one wonderful is born that way," Alexa says. Evan (whose real name is not Evan) is an up and coming writer who is shepherded into a world of money, society, and fast circles by the faux legend, Alexa Vere de Vere, who in the style of all great socialites throws money and clothes around, name drops like acid, and laughs ever so gaily at the little intricacies of life (isn't it grand? isn't it divine?). But the first act curtain drops leaving us with the not-at-all-surprising knowledge that Alexa is not Alexa (gasp) but some little nobody who made up a fake and much cooler persona which she uses to rip "almost famous" people off. The second act is Evan's journey to discover the "real" Alexa. In the end (spoiler alert), Evan, with the help of all the other people Alexa has ruined, sets her up for humiliation. But she beats him to the punch and shows up at his apartment, offering him a job working for her as an assistant con-man. Evan says 'no,' Alexa screams something about him needing her, and he goes on to write a novel about her called, (who would have thought) As Bees In Honey Drown. Alexa is enraged. The...end? It falls flat, frankly.

I am not unstirred by the questioning of young people searching for their self-worth and purpose, blahblahblah. It's the utter cliche of this particular story. Alexa is not just unbelievable because she's so fabulous but because I just can't picture her in modern day New York City or LA or anywhere else. This one lacks credibility for me.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Betrayal by Harold Pinter

A short two acts full of the requisite Pinter pauses, banal dialogue, and 1970's chic. The characters are inherently British and somehow, their affair seems distinctly British. The basic plot is as follows: Jerry has an affair with his best friend Robert's wife, Emma for seven years. In my mind, the most interesting feature of the play is its story structure which begins at the end and goes backwards. Pinter is almost overly specific regarding time and location. I wonder how this is interpreted/communicated in production. Though mostly realistic in styling, Pinter borders on absurdity with exchanges like the following:

Jerry: Is he the one who's always been here or is it his son?
Robert: You mean has his son always been here?
Jerry: No, is he his son? I mean, is he the son of the one who's always been here?
Robert: No, he's his father.
Jerry: Ah. Is he?

Overall, an easy read, not necessarily a standout in dramatic literature but one can see why Pinter is iconic. Certainly, the exchanges of dialogue are interesting exercises in subtext, which Pinter seems to feed on.