Binge Watching The Honeycomb Trilogy

The audacious marathon production of The Honeycomb Trilogy, written by Mac Rogers, will be hard to top. In a spectacular achievement by all involved, Gideon Productions has mounted all three of the plays simultaneously, running on individual nights as well as back-to-back-to-back on select days. Those marathon performances are worth seeing, and I wonder if anyone will be bold enough to do it again this way anytime soon, or as successfully.

This was my first experience with these stories and watching them in chronological order over a span of eight hours was thrilling. I'm sure seeing them out of sequence on different nights can be just as rewarding. Audience members witness the plot points unfold, referencing what came before and what's yet to come, putting the puzzle pieces of the gripping story together bit by tantalizing bit.

The end of the run approaches and enthusiastic reviews have led to sold out performances, but some seats are still available as of this writing for a few of the shows, so do yourselves a favor and catch this while you can. Who knows when you'll have a similar opportunity to be a part of such a theatrical tour de force?
Advance Man
Director Jordana Williams staged all three full productions, a commendable feat. She brings out the best in her talented cast, having them use the entire set seamlessly and naturally, with some truly captivating tableaus.

I must heap praise on Mac Rogers for the imaginative, nuanced, and emotionally charged story.  Like all good science fiction, his trilogy is loaded with exhilarating speculations about the future and keen allegories for our own time.  Every single character is fleshed out and unforgettable.

The cast is superb and I wish I had the skill to give everyone the proper shout out they deserve, since each one has brought Mac's characters to life completely. Although these are plays with specific protagonists and antagonists, no role is wasted as an afterthought, but rather each part is vital to the progression of the story, and each is memorable.

I must also applaud the talented crew for the lighting, sound, and set. The quick transitions from one play to the next during the marathon are beyond impressive. The costumes, the fight choreography, the props -- it's all superb.

Advance Man, the first play, is set in a recognizable time, with a family going through the usual everyday minutia of work and school and shopping, while facing familiar tribulations and suburban First World Problems. Kristen Vaughan is strong and sympathetic as Amelia, who suspects her husband, former astronaut Bill Cook, performed by Sean Williams, might be having an affair. She goes so far as to hire a private investigator, played with solid intensity by Ana Maria Jomolca. The mystery of what Bill and his fellow returned astronauts are doing is an intriguing one that builds up right to the climactic final scene.

The heart of the story in all three plays is the relationship between Bill's children, the soulful Abbie, portrayed by David Rosenblatt and later Stephen Heskett, and the spitfire Ronnie, played to perfection by both Becky Byers and later Hanna Cheek. The surviving crew who went to Mars and back with Bill, (Shaun Bennet Fauntleroy as Valerie, Rebecca Comtois as Belinda, and especially Carlos Martin as Raf) carry the weight of the world (or many worlds) on their shoulders, while trying to maintain the facade that all is normal. Amid all the suspense and drama, Mac Rogers sprinkles in plenty of humor as well to balance it all out, as epitomized by Brian Silliman's Kip, the business man who puts up the money for the astronaut's enterprise -- but to call Kip merely comic relief would be a disservice. As I mentioned, every character is essential with their own moments to shine.

Blast Radius
The middle play, Blast Radius, has some of the most emotional scenes in the whole saga, which is saying a lot, because the entire trilogy is loaded with moments of anger, tears, laughter, and fear. I found myself connecting with all of these characters, like the ones discovered in a great novel that will be cherished forever. Jason Howard is brilliant as Conor, conveying so much with just the smallest gestures, whether it's placing a hand on his chest or casting a revealing glance at just the right time. So many of the strong characters won't soon escape my memory -- Nancy Sirianni as the noble Shirley, Alisha Spielman as the smart and gutsy Clem, Amy Lee Pearsall as the heartbroken but determined Tash, and let's never forget Adam Swiderski as the heroic Peck. Cotton Wright as Willa is delightfully chilling, and Jimmy and Dev, played by Joseph Mathers and Seth Shelden respectively, were fantastic. Fee is probably my favorite, played so well by both Felicia J. Hudson and Yeauxlanda Kay. These characters will be haunting my dreams for months (maybe years) to come.

It all wraps up with Sovereign, a taut, dare I say perfect, conclusion to the ambitious trilogy. It's a post-apocalyptic morality tale with no easy answers to the ethical questions it raises, but the way it all plays out is totally satisfying. Matt Golden as Zander and Lori E. Parquet as Tanya match wits against each other as they try to maintain some semblance of law in a world still in chaos. C.L. Weatherstone's performance as the seemingly dimwitted Budeen during the opening scene nicely sets the tone for what follows. Sharpe (the terrific Daryl Lathon) and Wilkie (the charming Neimah Djourabchi) carry out Ronnie's orders as we're left pondering who's right, who's wrong. Like Star Trek's Kobayashi Maru, the no win scenario, sometimes we have to choose the lesser of two evils, but Mac Rogers deftly shows that many times human beings have difficulty distinguishing which is indeed the lesser threat. We sympathize with Erin Jerozal's Claret, then we fear her, then we sympathize with her again. It's a masterful bit of manipulation of the audience's expectations and reactions, in the end, making us think. Rod Serling of the Twilight Zone would be proud.

It would be a crime to reveal any of the plot twists and revelations in further detail. Go watch it unspoiled and enjoy the story as it was meant to be experienced, live before your eyes. The Honeycomb Trilogy is playing at the amazing Gym at Judson in Greenwich Village through November 14.