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Truth Decay

[whitespace] Rebecca Dines The Stinger, Not the Stung: Rebecca Dines plays a stylish con artist in 'As Bees in Honey Drown.'

Success can be too sweet for the almost-famous in 'As Bees in Honey Drown'

By Heather Zimmerman

SELF-STYLED DIVA, music producer and bon vivant Alexa Vere de Vere screws the almost-rich-and-famous, in every sense. But the word "screw" is putting it euphemistically, something one could never accuse Douglas Carter Beane's slick comedy, As Bees in Honey Drown, of doing. The play doesn't mince words in its generally hilarious skewering of the mercenary nature of fame. For Bees' West Coast premiere, TheatreWorks delivers a smart, stylish production that matches the sharp wit of the script.

Evan Wyler (Michael DeGood) is a young novelist who, almost as quickly as he has found success, is taken in by the ego-boosting wiles of a well-rehearsed con artist, Alexa Vere de Vere (Rebecca Dines). Glamorous, cash-flashing Alexa preys on those hopeful souls teetering on the brink of stardom, vulnerable to too-good-to-be-true deals that promise to further their careers and fatten their bank accounts. Alexa approaches Evan about writing the screenplay for the movie of her absolutely fabulous life. By the end of their meeting she has not only talked him into it but also talked him out of using his agent, and she's established a tidy little system of getting him to pay for lunch, and eventually everything else.

Shakespeare Santa Cruz veteran director Danny Scheie renders this tale of tall tales almost like a sleight of hand. Stamped with his trademark exuberance, it's frenetically paced--as hectic as Manhattan rush hour--but still sleek and self-aware.

DeGood plays Evan as ripe for the duping and with understandably wounded pride once the con is revealed, but never wholly sympathetic, as it seems Beane intended (even the heroes of this divinely faux world resemble anti-heroes). Dines is poisonously charming as Alexa; she makes it easy simultaneously to see the ruse and to see why someone would fall for it. Unfortunately, Dines' excellent performance underscores the redundancy in the second act. We are unnecessarily made to revisit each time Alexa tricked Evan as he reconstructs her crimes, as if, like him, we didn't suspect she was trouble the first time around.

More's the pity, because Alexa's transparency is what makes this satire-of-sorts work; her victims are so dazzled by her that her ploys, which would seem obvious under other circumstances, slip by undetected until too late. Alexa embodies modern fame, both its glittery appeal and its flip side of fakery and opportunism--she represents, as the play's title implies, far too much of a good thing. And as Beane tells us, there isn't a good thing you should be more careful about wishing for than fame, because you just might get it.

As Bees in Honey Drown plays at the Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts, 500 Castro St., Mountain View; Wednesday-Saturday at 8pm plus Saturday-Sunday matinees and Sunday evening shows (schedule varies); thru Oct. 3; $27-$35; 650.903.6000.

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From the August 12-18, 1999 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

Copyright © 1999 Metro Publishing Inc. Metroactive is affiliated with the Boulevards Network.

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