News Ticker

Hal & Bee

A warm, oddball study of the marriage of two aging hippies in an Upper West Side Apartment.

Share your thoughts in the comment section below.

Jeff Hayenga and Carol Buckley in a scene from Max Baker’s “Hal & Bee” (Photo credit: Hunter Canning)

Joel Benjamin

Joel Benjamin, Critic

Max Baker’s Hal & Bee, currently at the 59E59 Theaters, is a charming, oddball story of two aging hippies who must face dicey changes in their lives with which they are ill-equipped to deal.  Directed by Sarah Norris, each finds a way and that is what Hal & Bee explores with equal parts wit and defiance.

Hal (Jeff Hayenga), a former best-selling author, hasn’t written anything for decades.  He spends his days in his pleasant Upper West Side apartment (bravo set designer Brian Dudkiewicz) talking back to his TV, writing a blog and smoking pot.  He survives on various government handouts, depending mostly on his wife.

Bee (Candy Buckley) is the family breadwinner, going out every day to an office job she despises.  She drinks a bit too much and occasionally smokes regular cigarettes, much to the chagrin of their daughter, Moon (Lisa Jill Anderson), a pot-selling student whose problems include the environment, her school costs and an iffy romantic life.  She is her dad’s main pot supplier.

Jeff Hayenga and Ian Poake in a scene from Max Baker’s “Hal & Bee” (Photo credit: Hunter Canning)

Hal and Bee are confronted with a letter stating that their building has been sold.  Since they are rent controlled, they are offered a buyout which causes even more friction in this fractious household.  Hal is adamant about staying.  Bee fantasizes about a house in the country, an escape from her boring, soul-stealing job.

Acting as a freelance Greek Chorus, the exterminator, referred to as the Bug Man (Ian Poake), provides homey, ethnic advice in his short visit which has sad consequences.

Baker’s talent is in finding each character’s voice and understanding that a decades-old relationship has its ups and downs.  Hal and Bee are constantly at each others’ throats, but it is clear that they love each other completely.  Their shared hippie/liberal past is the bedrock on which their marriage is built.

Carol Buckley and Lisa Jill Anderson in a scene from Max Baker’s “Hal & Bee” (Photo credit: Hunter Canning)

Baker’s lines are spiky and colorful, often dark, sometimes banal, but his portrait of these two and the two lesser characters is always illuminating and full of real emotion.  The fade-out, a quiet revelatory moment, is simply lovely—and sad.

All the acting is first rate, particularly the lead couple.  Hayenga’s Hal would have been surly and unbearable except for his skill at making him a complex figure.  Buckley’s Bee is just as likable.  When she describes her fantasies, it’s difficult to deny she believes in them all the while knowing how futile her dreams are.

Genevieve V. Beller’s costumes are perfect.  Michael O’Connor’s lighting makes the most of the fine set and the many moods of the play.

Director Sarah Norris brought out all of the complex subtext and richness of these characters who could easily have been bothersome and cliched.

Hal & Bee (through March 31, 2018)

Stable Cable Lab Co. and New Light Theater Project

59E59 Theaters, 59 East 59th Street, in Manhattan

For tickets, call 212-279-4200 or visit http://www.59E59.org

Running time:  90 minutes with no intermission

Share your thoughts in the comment section below.

Joel Benjamin
About Joel Benjamin (264 Articles)
JOEL BENJAMIN was a child performer on Broadway and danced with leading modern dance and ballet companies. Joel has been attending theater, ballet and opera performances ever since childhood, becoming quite opinionated over the years. He was the founder and artistic director of the American Chamber Ballet and subsequently was massage therapist to the stars before becoming a reviewer and memoirist. He is a member of the Outer Critics Circle.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.