Rare is the show that would be better if it were significantly longer. At a mere thirty-ish minutes, Nameless Theater’s Honey comes out to nearly a dollar a minute for the ticket price. And while those thirty minutes take place in a unique location – the show is performed entirely within one of the rooms of an actual operating motel – the extreme brevity of the story robs it of any potential drama.
When you arrive at the Ivy City Hotel – a shiny, polished new establishment in the rapidly-gentrifying Ivy City neighborhood (with attached parking lot) – you wait in the lobby to meet a representative of the theater. Once the other patrons have gathered – a maximum of twelve – you’re given a quick speech about the seating arrangements, asked not to touch the actors, and then sent off as a group to one of the rooms. Along the way, a colorfully-dressed woman asks you if you’re on your way to see Honey, and insists that she is owed money.
Arriving in the room, the experience is surreal and initially fascinating. A man, John (Walter Parker, Jr) lounges on the bed in undershirt and boxers, watching the ballgame; you are acutely aware of how private the space is. After a moment, Honey (Palesa Pryor) emerges and begins to wrap up what we learn is John’s weekly session purchasing her sexual services. John – a trucker – is weary from his week, however, and, apparently for the first time in their two years of business together, offers to pay more for some time to talk.
Thus begins a few minutes of banter about the two characters’ backgrounds, the nature of being a lady of the night, and the judgmentalness of regular folks, which quickly – very quickly – leads us into the show’s major twist. I won’t spoil it, but suffice to say that the revelation is soap opera-level high melodrama. An audience can’t help but stifle some laughter, given how little setup there is, how little opportunity to get to know the characters or perceive their motivations before having this plot anvil dropped on our head.
closes April 14, 2018
Details and tickets
A’Leighsha C. Butler’s script is witty when it gives itself the room to be, and may even have something to say about personal pain and social hypocrisies, but it flies by too quickly for emotional connection. It’s a pity, because Parker and Pryor are excellent actors. He shows surprising range in the few minutes we get with him; she has remarkable poise for a young woman appearing in her first professional show outside of college. They’re both very brave for appearing so up-close to their audience – this is definitely a hands-and-feet-inside-the-aisle experience. Director Nia M. Barge does good work keeping them moving about the tiny space, but a last-minute scene in the bathroom makes you wish she’d had more opportunity to explore the various psychological nooks of the room more.
It’s not certain whether the runtime is limited due to the playwright’s choice or practical concerns. What is clear is that while this is an “unforgettable experience” as per Nameless’ company mission, it is mostly for the wrong reasons. Everyone here, including we in the audience who inevitably have spent more time driving to and from the show than watching it, would have benefited from more time to turn this mere curiosity into something with impact. Perhaps with their upcoming “Motel Series” the company will find a better match between runtime and material.
Honey by A’Leighsha C. Butler . Directed by Nia M. Barge . Featuring Walter Parker Jr and Palesa Pryor . Produced by Nameless Theater . Reviewed by Brett Steven Abelman.