Megan Kubac & Michael McCollum in The Honey Harvest. Photo courtesy Little Colonel Playhouse.
The Honey Harvest
By Liz Fentress
Directed by Alyssa Hendricks
Review by Keith Waits
Entire contents copyright © 2018 by Keith Waits. All rights reserved.
The Honey Harvest is a modest, heartfelt exploration of time and family. Melissa Holt (Megan Kubac) has moved back home to care for her widowed father, John (John Lina) as he suffers the advanced stages of Alzheimer’s. One generation coming to grips with the diminished capacity of a parent is not an unusual story, but it will always remain relevant.
Melissa also has decided to take up beekeeping, and at the beginning of the play is seen unpacking and installing her mail-order beehive kit. Old family friend Ed Shoola (Michael McCollum) is an experienced beekeeper and advises her, while next-door neighbor PJ (Andy Szuran) is somewhat annoyed about the whole idea, in spite of his long-held infatuation for Melissa.
Playwright Liz Fentress ties Melissa’s developing hobby to John’s deteriorating mind, which allows her to end the play on an understated grace note. The strength of her writing is in the restraint with which she explores a situation that could all too easily be exploited for maudlin effect. The father is given several frightening moments of detachment from reality, but the cliché of the overwrought
emotional reconciliation between father and daughter is avoided for more subtle narrative choices.
Director Alyssa Hendricks shoots for understatement in the playing as well, although there are a couple of strong confrontations. The dialogue is sometimes stilted and self-conscious, especially in the first act, but the second half works much better. John Lina is right on target as Melissa’s father, halting and heartbreaking in charting the character’s slow descent. Megan Kubac is a winning Melissa, although she misses teasing out any real depth here. Andy Szuran handles himself well, although PJ is short-changed in the writing so that he never rises about what the plot demands of him, and Michael McCollum lends Ed just enough of the weight of shared history without seeming to do very much.
Fentress seems to want to uncover simple yet profound understanding about life and how, at a moment when we might appear to be compromising ambition and achievement for family, sublime discovery might open our hearts and minds in unexpected ways.
I am gratified to see Little Colonel Playhouse continue the initiative to produce plays by local writers, theatres from being taken seriously. While The Honey Harvest may not be daring or provocative, it is an entertainment with integrity and a far cry from the warmed-over situation comedy that represents the cliché of community theatre.
The Honey Harvest
January 12, 13, 18, 19, & 20 at 7:30pm
January 14 & 21 at 2:00pm
Little Colonel Playhouse
302 Mount Mercy Drive
Pewee Valley, Kentucky 400
Keith Waits is a native of Louisville who works at Louisville Visual Art during the days, including being the host of LVA’s Artebella On The Radio on WXOX 97.1 FM / ARTxFM.com, but spends most of his evenings indulging his taste for theatre, music and visual arts. His work has appeared in Pure Uncut Candy, TheatreLouisville, and Louisville Mojo. He is now Managing Editor for Arts-Louisville.com.