Details are nowhere to be found in this story about family, loss and bees.
There’s an exchange in playwright Elena Hartwell’s A Strange Disappearance of Bees that goes like this: A farmer named Callum (Rusty Myers) asks another man named Robert (David Hartley) about this mysterious business that Robert says he owns. Robert says that it’s in the field of “technology.” Callum retorts that “technology” is a pretty vague term; Robert points out that so is “farmer” and presses him on what kind of crops he actually does “farm.” We never learn the answer to either man’s question. The exchange is symptomatic of the problems that hinder this painfully dull play: It’s all too vague.
Directed by Emelia Zuckerman, the play follows five characters over 30 years. Callum and Robert are fighting over Lissa (Renee Lynn Jackson), the owner of a bakery formerly run by Vietnam vet Cashman (Richard Jewell), who has passed away. Lissa was Cashman’s quasi-daughter, while Robert is his actual long-lost son. Cashman’s longtime lover Rud (Kathleen Burke) is also in the picture. She’s a beekeeper who's recently lost all her hives to the phenomenon of colony collapse. Save for the boys fighting over Lissa, there's very little conflict—mostly just a lot of sadness and ennui.
There's no specificity in the script, performances or direction that could lead you to mistake this for reality. The acting is stiff and the staging is clunky. By the end you start to wonder if maybe the bees disappeared because they couldn’t take it. Wouldn’t be too strange if they did.
Forget Me Not Theatre at The Den. By Elena Hartwell. Directed by Emelia Zuckerman. With Kathleen Burke, David Hartley, Renee Lynn Jackson, Richard Jewell and Rusty Myers. 2 hours. 1 intermission.