In ‘Bees & Honey,’ Guadalís Del Carmen tells a love story.
What attracts two lovers collectively could also be extra apparent than what retains them in sync. An inviting smile and easy opening line can pierce the noise of a crowded membership, however then what? In the case of “Bees & Honey,” which opened at MCC Theater on Monday, eyes lock and hips swivel to the plucky guitar and eight-count beat of bachata.
This Dominican type of music and dance, with its sensual cadence and professions of heartache, is a foundational metaphor on this boy-meets-girl two-hander by the playwright Guadalís Del Carmen. After falling into step on a steamy evening out, Johaira (Maribel Martinez) and Manuel (Xavier Pacheco) they start a duet that quickly finds them sharing an condominium within the Washington Heights neighborhood of Manhattan.
She is a district legal professional who ascends the ranks to prosecute high-profile circumstances; he’s a mechanic with plans to increase his auto-repair store throughout the 5 boroughs.
By the subsequent scene they’re navigating the rhythms of a long-term romance. immersed within the tenor and flavors of their Afro-Dominican backgrounds. Instinctively, they often slip into Spanish, teasing and rooting for one another as their lives proceed to intertwine.
The slice-of-life naturalism of “Bees & Honey,” offered in partnership with the Sol Project, is extra concerned with capturing culturally particular element than in breaking floor with an authentic plot. The churn of every day ins and outs on this staging by the director Melissa Crespo, on a catalog-colorful lounge set by the designer Shoko Kambara, has a acquainted sitcom high quality. And almost each story growth displays an inevitable truism (intercourse lives dwindle, ladies get pregnant, elders require care). For a marital drama that runs two hours together with an intermission, it feels mild on substance and shock.
But what’s distinctive about Johaira and Manuel, and the way their syncopation thrives and falters, is the feel of their shared heritage. Del Carmen skirts the perimeters of stereotype in underlining qualities variously related to Dominican women and men, however finally succeeds in creating plausible, if standard, characters. Del Carmen betrays a heavy hand in how Johaira compels Manuel to learn bell hooks, as an antidote to his inherited machismo. That she prosecutes sexual assault circumstances in court docket provides artificial emotional gas to the play’s highest-stakes climax, which occurs offstage to folks we by no means meet.
Still, the convenience and electrical energy between Martinez and Pacheco, whose performances deepen because the union predictably grows extra sophisticated, lend the manufacturing a sticky-sweet attraction. Johaira is by turns headstrong, comfortable and a stranger to herself, interior tensions that Martinez embodies with luminous transparency. And Pacheco’s Manuel is spring-loaded with empathy and eroticism, reflexively attentive and affectionate, prepared to reply to the slightest provocation. They appear to gibe completely till they don’t. So what occurred? As Johaira says of dancing bachata: “You lose your footing and the moment is gone.”
Bees & Honey
Through June 11 at MCC Theater, Manhattan; mcctheater.org. Running time: 2 hours.