Bees & Honey– A Thoughtful Slice of Life

Prejudicial lines in the sand are drawn for reasons of color, class, culture, and related economics. (Religion doesn’t apply here.) Still, opposites often attract and labels lack feelings. At either side of the stage, Johaira (Maribel Martinez in her apartment, and Manuel Xavier Pacheco, in his automotive body shop), express similar feelings about infectiously rhythmic bachata music. (Believed to have been first recorded in Spanish in the 1920s from West African origins, the Dominican music features guitars and percussion.) They’re romantics. She comments the music either breaks your heart or heals it. He notes it’s for making love, not fucking.

Johaira is headed to a club with her girlfriends. She graduated law school summa cum laude and wants to dance. Manual and his homies are regulars, there to pick up women. We know next to nothing about her history (easily rectified), but it’s clear his background offered few opportunities. They lock eyes and dance all night. (Choreography by Mayte Natalio is uncomplicated, but sensual; original music by Dilson symbiotic throughout.)

Next time lights come up, the couple are living together. Manuel is reading The Will to Change and cooking. His do-rag remains in place i.e. there’s compromise, not radical adjustment. Johaira comes home from work (she’s a prosecutor) fired up about an imminent trial. She’s liberal and ambitious, choosing to help women in abuse cases, hoping to achieve divisional head. Buoyed by her outlook and his changed circumstances, Manuel goes after a bank loan in order to expand.

Misogynistic phrases pop out of him in response to her impassioned speeches. At one point, he suggests mood might stem from suffering her monthly, (audience moans), but both know his remark stems from habit. She corrects, he retreats.  She complains about frat boy mentality in law. He compares it with gang loyalty on the street.

The couple are likely in their late 20s or early 30s. Her apartment is in Washington Heights. They’re money conscious. Young people will relate to the music, vernacular, in-law issues, and circumstances of a new marriage, but make no mistake, Guadalis Del Carmen has written a piece of adult theater. Johaira’s rape case is topical, her approach grounded and mature. When tragedy and family challenges enter their lives reaction and outcome are realistic, right up to the last minute. Del Carmen doesn’t simplify. This is a thoughtful, adroitly produced piece centering on relatable characters.

Well matched, Maribel Martinez and Xavier Pacheco both have a talent for subtle emotional expression as well as physical acting. Martinez portrays attraction-against-judgment empathetically. Eventual grief is visceral. During the last scene, we almost hear the character’s mind wrench. Manuel’s surprise and pleasure at securing someone he feels might be above him, his optimistic, innocent love and later resignation, are believably manifest by Pacheco. Rubber movement makes music and happiness palpable.

Except for a first parenthesis which unfathomably has male protagonist Manuel with his back to us the entire time, Director Melissa Crespo does an excellent job moving characters with organic motivation. Actors deftly express a wide range of believable feelings – never to excess= the easy way out. Intimacy is warm and easy. (Intimacy Direction- Teniece Divya Johnson.)

Set Design by Shoko Kambara is livable and well composed but lacks anything specific to inhabiting characters. Costumes by Devario D. Simmons serve the male lead but despite dialogue indicating fashion interest and purchases, ignore better style choices for the female. Lighting by Reza Behjat takes us seamlessly from one episode to the next indicating change of hour.

Photos by Julieta Cervantes

Bees & Honey by Guadalis Del Carmen
Directed by Melissa Crespo
Through June 11. 2023
MCC Theater  
511 West 52nd Street

About Alix Cohen (1580 Articles)
Alix Cohen is the recipient of ten New York Press Club Awards for work published on this venue. Her writing history began with poetry, segued into lyrics and took a commercial detour while holding executive positions in product development, merchandising, and design. A cultural sponge, she now turns her diverse personal and professional background to authoring pieces about culture/the arts with particular interest in artists/performers and entrepreneurs. Theater, music, art/design are lifelong areas of study and passion. She is a voting member of Drama Desk and Drama League. Alix’s professional experience in women’s fashion fuels writing in that area. Besides Woman Around Town, the journalist writes for Cabaret Scenes, Broadway World, TheaterLife, and Theater Pizzazz. Additional pieces have been published by The New York Post, The National Observer’s Playground Magazine, Pasadena Magazine, Times Square Chronicles, and ifashionnetwork. She lives in Manhattan. Of course.