The next time you prepare to enjoy that cup of tea or bowl of granola, think twice before dipping your spoon into the honey jar. That sweetmeat might be part of some nefarious plan. In Advance Man, Mac Rogers’s rollicking, rickety sci-fi drama, now playing at the Secret Theatre in Long Island City, a select group of earthlings prepare for the arrival of bee-like aliens who will return the Earth to a pre-industrial Eden. This piece serves as the first part of Rogers’s Honeycomb Trilogy, with Blast Radius and Sovereign to follow.
You can’t fault Rogers for big ideas or director Jordana Williams for staging them on what seems an infinitesimal budget. Yet Advance Man contains problems of scale. In a structural choice as efficient as it is constraining, Rogers locates the whole of the play in the Florida living room of Bill Cooke (Sean Williams), a former astronaut. After a three-year sojourn on Mars, Cooke and his crew announced that they would cease sailing the stars and instead devote themselves to environmental projects.
Though this domestic setting might suggest a focus on character, Rogers has favored plot over personnae. The action, which takes a few clever twists, unravels itself in a suburban sprawl, but the individuals don’t seem to alter, even as they reveal seemingly game-changing twists and surprises. Nor are the actors, though all committed and enthusiastic, quite skilled enough to fill in the script’s characterological gaps. These people seem no more fully fleshed than the comic book figures drawn by Bill’s son Abbie (David Rosenblatt).
It’s Abbie who provides the play’s sole image of the coming hordes, a sketch of an insectoid creature only half-glimpsed by the audience. These creatures are also suggested via some ominous buzzing, courtesy of sound designer Jeanne E. Travis. But those who want a proper look at these scheming bees will have to wait for later installments. Until then, why not stick to maple syrup?
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