Thursday, October 15, 2015

Review of Forget Me Not Theatre Company's A Strange Disappearance of Bees

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called A Strange Disappearance of Bees. It was by Elena Hartwell and it was directed by Emelia Zuckerman. It was about this girl named Lissa (Renee Lynn Jackson) whose father-figure Cashman (Richard Jewell) has just passed away. And then, Cashman's son Robert (David Hartley) comes to visit him but they'd never met before. But then he finds out that his father is dead. Lissa falls in love with Cashman's son but the problem is that she is dating her honey-provider Callum (Rusty Myers). And also there was a love triangle in the past between Cashman, Robert's mother, and Rud (Kathleen Burke) who was a beekeeper. But all her bees were dying. It is about love, what makes a family, and mysterious losses.

In the show, they had these interludes where Rud would talk about Bees for a little bit. They were trying to make third-level dialogue (telling a story to get what you want rather than just asking for it) it seemed. They wanted the stories about bees to make you think more about the show and think something like, "Those people are like the bees." She would talk to the audience and you expected to make some big discovery about the play while she talked about the bees. But it was more like listening to one of the education screens at the zoo. I wasn't able to connect it to the play like they wanted me to. It felt like first-level dialogue (just straightforward saying what you want or think) delivered with a huge smile and cupped hands.

They are a lot of really big plot points in this play. Like more than one person gets pregnant and doesn't know who the father is. A character comes back from the war and treats his wife badly. A character has an abortion. Somebody commits suicide by bee. There's a big love triangle. All the bees are disappearing. There are two children who grow up not knowing their fathers. The play just piles stuff on and it makes it hard for the audience to care because the script and actors didn't give any depth to the characters and it was just too much. And even if you do care about what happens, most of the time they don't tell you how things work out.

It seemed sometimes like the actors didn't want to be there. I do have sympathy for that because I think half or more of the problem with the show was in the script. But the show could have been better if the actors had shown their characters and the relationships with the other characters more fully. I would have liked to see clearer choices being made about the characters' behavior, which the director might have helped them with more.

Writing this review has been hard for me because I don't like to hurt people's feelings. But I think that they do need to know the way I actually feel about it because it might be useful for fixing it or for other people doing shows. This show made me think a lot about acting and writing and how to tell a good story, which I think is good for reviewers and actors to think about. I really loved this company's The Impossible Adventures of Supernova Jones and I hope to see more of their shows.

Photos: Emelia Zuckerman

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