PLAYBILL BACKSTAGE: The Buzz at Bees

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Clockwise from upper right: Arika Coleman; Bo Foxworth and the 8-ball; The Company; John Thornberry; T. Scott Cunningham.
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Photo by Photos by Starla Smith

Clockwise from upper right: Arika Coleman; Bo Foxworth and the 8-ball; The Company; John Thornberry; T. Scott Cunningham.


Backstage at: As Bees in Honey Drown

Downtown at the Off-Broadway comedy, As Bees in Honey Drown, by Douglas Carter Beane, they're putting the "fun" back in dysfunctional. You want to see bees, and you're hoping that during your visit, playwright Beane will leap through the stage curtain wearing a bright yellow leotard with brown rings.

But it's business as usual at the Lucille Lortel Theater. The Spice Girls' poster has been pulled off the wall and replaced by South Park in the narrow backstage area. John Thornberry, the assistant stage manager, begins his daily chore of uncrumpling the roses, while wardrobe mistress, Corry Ouellette, steam presses Beau Foxworth's Gucci suit pants. The shifters rearrange the aubergine and aquamarine Paramount furniture in preparation for the Sunday matinee. Someone else grabs the red bee mugs for a photo op. "There is a secret to arranging the flowers," teases Thornberry, who's been with the show since its beginning. "Lots of roses on the bottom, one at the top."

But where are the bees?

"No bees on them. We're not insect rangers here. Also not florists," he chuckles.

Upstairs, where the actors are ignoring a platter of Sunday desserts, the dressing rooms are small and narrow with low ceilings. To the left and up a short ladder, there is an unmade loft bed. Bo Foxworth picks up his 8-ball and describes his character. "Bright but naive, a little shy, and I think a little dysfunctional, truly someone who wants to be a great and good artist. He gets caught up in this crowd and becomes a poseur. Then he changes his name from Eric Wallenstein to Evan Wyler, and leaves behind his culture as well."

Next door in the women's dressing room, two racks of brightly colored costumes line the wall. Actors Lyn Wright and Tracie Jade jump behind the gowns and peek out just as Kristine Nielsen breezes in to talk about her character, Alexa. "A hungry, ambitious, vulnerable woman trying to make it with absolutely no talent. She's using her mind and other people's talent and using them quite well."

Kristine joined the cast in March, after the closing of Broadway's Jackie, in which she played Marilyn Monroe, Rose and Ethel Kennedy. "I'm very pleased to say that I also played Sander Vanocur." Kristine clutches the Styrofoam head dramatically and pretends to choke it. "Don't you think she needs some red lipstick and a little eye liner? "

"Shall I show her the Barbara Barrie Memorial Toilet," asks the production stage manager, James Fitzsimmons, or "Fitz," as the company calls him.

"Barbara had it installed during Isn't It Romantic?. " Hanging outside the bathroom door are hundreds of Polaroids of the cast and the "No flushing during the show" sign.

This is the result of an unfortunate incident when a cast member flushed during the Staten Island Ferry scene. "You could hear it all over the house, and nobody thought it was the rudder," Fitz recalled. "I laughed, but only after I stopped screaming."

Thornberry picks up the violin used in Lyn's nude scene, where she plays a young virtuoso with a strategically placed instrument. "Oh John," she winks, "don't tune it, warm it up!"

Onstage the shifters, Arika Coleman and Metta Dael, perch on the Paramount furniture to watch J. Scott and Bo practice their big fight scene.

"It's not quite Beauty and the Beast, but we get by," quips Fitz. "We don't have a flying chandelier, but we do have one hell of a black wig."

But where are the bees?

"Forget about the bees, " he retorts.

No bees?

"Just spiritual bees," he grins, " . . . but we have a lot of buzz"

-- By Starla Smith


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