Bright lights, big city

The culture of celebrity gets a thorough working-over in As Bees in Honey Drown, Douglas Carter Beane's new comedy. Our hero, conflicted young novelist Evan Wyler (ne Eric Wollenstein), tangles with Alexa Veer de Veer, a madcap socialite looking for someone to pen the movie treatment of her life. Alexa is Auntie Mame, Sally Bowles, and Holly Golightly all rolled into one. She seduces Evan (who's gay), fleeces him, then disappears. Bent on revenge, he seeks out Alexa, prowling through a Manhattan populated by assorted creeps.

Bees is a collection of swiftly paced scenes, including many flashbacks. According to LD Kenneth Posner, the key word is preparation. "We storyboarded it very carefully," he says, including director Mark Brokaw and scenic designer Allen Moyer in the group. "We almost prestaged the play before Mark went into rehearsal. New things evolved out of the process, but we had a foundation."

Moyer's set, says Posner, was meant to evoke the "sleek New York chic" exemplified by such forbiddingly hip hangouts as the Royalton and Paramount hotels. To suggest a range of locations, the LD used "strong angles injecting strong color." Without getting literal, Posner convincingly transforms the stage into dressing rooms, offices, restaurants, East Village studios, and the Staten Island Ferry.

Bees opened in late June to critical acclaim, and within days a transfer was planned from Greenwich House to the Lucille Lortel Theatre. Says Posner, "There was no alternative but to just move the same production into the Lortel. In fact, we lowered the grid about 2-21/2' to match the grid height at Greenwich House, so the light plot transferred exactly." To accommodate the large number of specials, he adds, "at Greenwich House we had 48 dimmers and 48 A/B switches, which equals 96 dimmers. At the Lortel, I got a rack of 96 dimmers--then we multiplexed a little bit to gain some spare dimmers." At Greenwich House, the show was controlled by an ETC Microvision; for the transfer, ETC's Express 250 was substituted. Lighting equipment was supplied by Production Arts.

Bees proved to be a fortuitous season kick-off for the prolific Posner, whose fall schedule includes three New York plays, two productions at Minneapolis' Guthrie Theatre, and the new Barry Manilow musical Harmony for the La Jolla Playhouse. If output is any indication, the designer has plenty of buzz all by himself.