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BWW Reviews: HONEY FIST: You've Got to Have Friends

August Schulenberg's interesting new play Honey Fist seems to have taken a bit of its inspiration from the real-life story of Richard Linkater, the writer and director of the film Dazed and Confused, who was sued by his old high school chums for using their stories and (in some cases) surnames in his film.

Schulenberg's play takes place in Marblehead, Massachusetts, under a set of powerlines where a gang of 30-something pals have met to toast the memory of their friend Justin, who died very young, having apparently jumped to his death off the cliffs behind them.

Rene (Anna Rahn), Stu (Matt Archambault), Sul (Chinaza Uche), and Sammy (Isaiah Tanenbaum) bicker amusingly as old friends do, reminiscing about the past, until their reverie is interrupted by Joe (Nat Cassidy), their friend who went away to Hollywood and is now a famous filmmaker, and his superstar girlfriend, pop singer Gretyl Barnes (Lori E. Parquet). Joe has come with a compelling suggestion: a new Porsche to whomever can tell him the most interesting story about the late Justin. Naturally his motives are called into question, as Joe has already written a movie about his old friends, and may well be simply out of material. Justin, it seems, was a bit of a messianic figure to his high school friends, and though no one could save him from his own darkness, he meant something special to each of them, and no one wants that to be cheapened. ...or do they? The play goes off in a few unexpected directions after that, when certain secrets are revealed; I don't want to spoil the twists and turns. Schulenberg is a great writer, and truly mines the deep thoughts of these characters.

The actors are all deeply honest and real, though some are better at maintaining the Massachusetts accent than others. Rahn is especially good with the accent and gives a gloriously rounded performance. Tanenbaum is very funny as the fast-talking Sammy, Uche is adorable as the lovelorn Sul, and Archambault and Parquet have some powerful scenes together. Cassidy is full of a barely suppressed overwhelming desire that finally gets to explode in later scenes.

The same designers from Sans Merci are behind the technical elements: Janie Bullard's Sound Design, Will Lowry's Costume Designs, Charles Murdoch's set, Kia Rogers Lighting Design, and Sarah Slagle's Prop Design. Kelly O'Donnell directs with a great sense for the buried tensions simmering below the surface of these jovial cronies.

The play was chosen to be in repertory with Sans Merci, as a commentary on who truly owns the stories of the dead, and as that it's a fascinating companion piece.

The play isn't faultless: a recurring metaphor about honey (from the title) seems a bit labored, and some of the denouement seems telegraphed too soon, so that I was unsurprised at a couple of the twists, but the play is still highly delightful and intriguing. It's an enjoyable ride.

Honey Fist will be presented by Flux Theatre Ensemble at the 4th Street Theatre (83 East 4th Street between 2nd Avenue and Bowery) April 30-May 18; 4/30, 5/1, 5/2, 5/4, 5/9, 5/10, 5/12, 5/14, 5/15, & 5/18 at 7:30pm and 5/5, 5/11 & 5/18 at 2:30pm. Tickets ($18; $15 students) may be purchased online at or by calling 866-811-4111. Tickets to see performances of both Sans Merci and Honey Fist are $30 (with no service charge).

Photo: Nat Cassidy, Lori E. Parquet, Chinaza Uche, Anna Rahn, and Isaiah Tanenbaum Photo credit Ken Glickfeld

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