Hal & Bee – A Seriously Black Comedy

Hal (Jeff Hayenga) and his wife Bee (Candy Buckley) met in college. They marched against Vietnam and for Civil Rights, signed anti-pollution petitions, dogeared The Whole Earth Catalog, read Kurt Vonnegut and food additive labels, experimented with hallucinogens, and smoked marijuana.

Hal authored a successful book about big business controlling politics, then couldn’t get a second one published. He now rises late, rarely dresses, smokes grass all day, collects disability for nonexistent “social anxiety disorder and agoraphobia,” plays video games, and writes only an outraged blog 652 subscribers strong. Bee, who has necessarily adapted, continues to work within the increasingly mired bureaucracy of a museum.

Candy Buckley and Lisa Jill Anderson

The couple live in a rent-controlled Upper West Side apartment that Scenic Designer Brian Dudkiewicz has made look dark, colorless, and as if  occupied by people who have pretty much given up on life. (Even the so-called art is awful.) Daughter Moon (Lisa Jill Anderson) -the 60s, remember? – a college student, regularly comes to visit. She’s an articulate psychology major and, incidentally, Hal’s marijuana connection.

The only other character is a Russian bug exterminator (Arthur Kriklivy) whose function seems to be to deliver a telling quote by Aristotle and, unwittingly I think, deliver a blast of fresh air. The actor is first rate.

When they receive notice 450 West 104th Street has been sold and are offered money to relocate, Bee jumps at the chance to retire, move to the country, and plant a garden. Hal is dead set against it, dead being the operative word. They argue…almost continuously throughout the play. He’s stoned, perpetually incensed, and content. She’s exhausted and fed up. Oblivious Moon, a device to give us a glimpse of the “real” world, thinks Hal and Bee are the perfect couple. Her function seems to be repeatedly almost discovering the truth.

Jeff Hayenga and Candy Buckley

Having reached respective limits, murder fantasies are played out by both husband and wife. These are so well integrated that one often wonders whether an incident might be actual. (In fact, it’s never clear whether the last two really happen.) Unfortunately, both brutal violence and victims’ responses are unrealistically orchestrated by Fight Director Scott Barrow and Director Sarah Norris which takes the air out of them. A good idea gone wrong.

Differentiating script from production, I find the concept intriguing, speeches evocatively generational and character specific. There’s no need for “the bug man.” Moon might be better used. The play should zip along and doesn’t.

Jeff Hayenga’s Hal is irritating but we never see him uncontrollably angry, only the results. He’s credibly high, but otherwise one note. Candy Buckley (Bee) is more nuanced and grounded in her efforts. Lisa Jill Anderson does a yeoman-like job.

Andrew Evan Cohen (no relation) employs just the right music.

Photos by Hunter Canning
Opening: Candy Buckley and Jeff Hayenga

Stable Cable Lab Co, and New Light Theater Project present
Hal & Bee by Max Baker
Directed by Sarah Norris
59E59 Theaters
Through March 31, 2018

About Alix Cohen (1162 Articles)
Alix Cohen is the recipient of nine 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, 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.