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As Bees in Honey Drown

by Douglas Carter Beane

This play really could not be more different from The Great Divide, stylistically, plot-wise.. it's almost unfair to compare them because they are at two ends of the spectrum. I can't help but compare, however, since my head is so wrapped up in early 20th century language and behavior..

As Bees in Honey Drown is a decent play. I much preferred Beane's The Little Dog Laughed, but I did enjoy reading this piece. It's basically about a scam artist and how her victims take their revenge. The main thing I took away from this play:

In New York, anyone can create a new identity.

Alexa Vere de Vere was once a normal girl with a normal, boring upbringing, who then decided she wanted to be someone of import and so she adopted a larger than life personality and irresistible charm. Once she believed she was important, the rest of New York followed suit. The thing with disguises though, is that when the line begins to blur, it's easy to forget who you really are.

The scam runs like this: Alexa and her latest discovery (read: victim) are buying something, ie: dinner, new clothes, etc. She only has cash so she asks victim to pay with his or her credit card so that Alexa can have the receipt for her accountant. Alexa pays victim back in cash. Eventually, this continues and Alexa stops paying back, then victim is left screwed out of lots of money. My main issue with this play lies entirely with this scam. Since when can you not get a receipt when you pay with cash?! This does NOT make any sense to me. Therefore, as I read the play I just thought that all of her victims were stupid because they fell for this, and probably deserved to get scammed. Also, I saw it coming from the beginning so it wasn't much of a reveal.

Issues aside, I really like Beane as a writer. There were some lines that resonated with me.. There is a moment when Alexa is having a heart-to-heart with her latest discovery, Evan Wyler, writer. She tells him a story about a woman she knows who was discovered to be a masochist:
I asked her what it was that inspired her to be treated poorly. She told me that the line between pain and pleasure was very thin indeed. I smiled to her ruefully and told her not to fret because the line between pain and love was virtually indistinguishable. But we're not like that, are we? We're not the ones people hurt. We are the creative people. We have art to protect us, even if our greatest creation gets to be ourselves.
I agree that art can be a comfort, but I think because we are creative people we feel things intensely in life as well, and so I think we are the ones that people hurt. Sometimes my expectations are so high that my disappointments run so deep. And then, when people meet or surpass my desires, my heart bursts.

What she says about the line between pain and love being very thin is speaking to me regarding my relationship in TGD... why do we punish ourselves for feeling pleasure? (Actually, that's Ghent's argument at the end, I punish myself because of my Puritanical upbringing).. but in modern life, what is it that scares us about happiness? About success? Alexa says:
It is every time you create that you run the risk of proving or chiseling at your reputation. 
It is easier, and perhaps safer for peace of mind, to say, "I am an actor," but never act. It is riskier to slip into someone else's skin and try them on for size - To risk your own reputation, publicly, to attempt to express yourself with someone else's words.

So, for the next two months, I will be taking that risk to try and tell Ruth's story of struggle and strength. Hope you'll join me.

Tomorrow's Play: The Great Divide - Day 8

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