|Cast and crew of As Bees in Honey Drown, with director Michael Smith (front row, second from left)|
In your typical romantic comedy, the usual storyline is boy meets girl, boy loses girl, and then realizing the error of his ways, boy regains girl just in time for a happy, sappy ending. By contrast, As Bees In Honey Drown (coming to the Farmington Players February 8-23) is not your typical rom-com. As director Michael Smith explains, “It’s more boy tastes fame, boy gets screwed by fame, and boy accepts that fame is not what he really wants! It’s topical and will seem very current given the thirst Americans have for social media and twitter hits and Instagram followers. As one character says, ‘the new becomes old before we find a newer new.’”
As the director of Bees, Michael definitely relates to the play’s themes and characters: “This play includes several well-written gay characters which — as a gay man and a writer — I find particularly gratifying. The main character — Evan Wyler — is both a writer and gay, and is in a particular place in his development as a gay man that every gay man will recognize: the ‘sleep around’ phase. It happens to all of us. You come out, you accept who you are (at some level or another) and you play the field. Every gay man does it and, if they don’t, they will not develop properly in my view. It’s a required release of sorts. Most move on from there into healthy relationships.”
When we first meet Evan, he has shelved his romantic side in favor of his art — his writing. Michael explains the importance of this: “When Evan finally tastes fame — the buzz, the hype — it seduces him. Fame in this case is played by Alexa, the femme fatale. So the gay man is seduced by a woman, then loses his identity completely. When he finds it again, he is changed and ready to accept who he is.” In his own life, Michael can relate to Evan’s decisions “to a point. I’ve been with my husband Frank for 28 years, and embarked on a writing career about seven years ago. I did not put my relationship on hold — rather, I embraced and cherished it. … I chose my romantic life over my artistic life and I did so with zero regrets.”
In directing Bees, Michael focuses on character development, saying, “this script is incredibly well-written: funny, engaging and with multi-layered characters. It’s often easy for an actor to play the character on the surface — what he does, his emotions — but it takes a real actor to play that AND the subtext beneath it. Every character — every person — has subtext to what they do. … Douglass Carter Beane, the playwright, infused many of these characters with deep subtext. Fortunately, we have the actors to play them!”
“The single most gratifying thing about doing this show is knowing that I have a huge pool of screamingly talented people to help me. That is the benefit of working with the Farmington Players. You have a vision, you put the vision out there, and everyone embraces it and makes it happen. It’s a lot of work, but the finished product will be tremendous — and totally impossible to accomplish without everyone who helped!”
Michael grew up in ultra-conservative Midland, Michigan, which he calls “a great place to go to public school but you want to get the heck out of there once you graduate. It’s no place to be gay. I studied graphic design at Western Michigan, so I learned to be collaborative on projects early. It’s a skill that makes directing easier and much more rewarding.” Seven years ago, he quit his design career to focus on writing: “I discovered that I have an affinity for it. I love creating anything, and forming characters, situations — even whole worlds — from nothing has been the greatest challenge of my life.”
As Bees in Honey Drown has three remaining performances at the Farmington Players Barn Theater from February 21 – 23. The show is proudly sponsored by Ameritax Plus. Tickets are available online at farmingtonplayers.org or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or calling the Barn box office at 248-553-2955.