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The Beekeeper’s Daughter

The stirring and emotional revival from Karen Malpede presents both the best and worst faces of humanity.

Najla Said and P.J. Brennan in a scene from Karen Malpede’s “The Beekeeper’s Daughter” (Photo credit: Beatrice Schiller)

Najla Said and P.J. Brennan in a scene from Karen Malpede’s “The Beekeeper’s Daughter” (Photo credit: Beatrice Schiller)

Courtney Marie

Courtney Marie, Critic

The stirring and emotional revival, The Beekeeper’s Daughter, from playwright Karen Malpede presents both the best and worst faces of humanity in the story of an American family and a refugee from Bosnia. While this small clan seems to live in paradise on an island in the Adriatic, a brutal war is exploding only a few hundred miles away and a daughter’s return from the violence with a guest who has been deeply affected, brings familial tensions to the surface. The new production is directed by the playwright.

Najla Said’s Rachel is the daughter and activist who has witnessed the tragedies of war firsthand – most particularly with her friend, Admira (Jenny Leona), who has been a victim of sexual violence and finds herself pregnant with child and no place to go. Rachel makes it her responsibility to ensure that Admira is safe and cared for and when she comes back to her home, and has specific instructions as to how her family will treat her friend while she stays with them. The arrangements bring on disagreements between Rachel and her poet father, George Bartenieff’s Robert Blaze, as they have lived very different lifestyles over the past few years. Rachel has been directly in the line of fire and has a right to be overcautious, while her father has been living in a safe and luxurious space and doesn’t seem to have the same view on reality.
Said delivers a powerful and unforgettable performance as she advocates for women who have been victims of violence and will not stand for injustice. She is brave, strong, and not afraid to raise her voice, or allow others to influence her opinion. Often growing impatient with her father, Rachel is extremely protective (which she has every right to be) but seems like she could afford to have some tolerance for her aging father.

George Bartenieff in a scene from Karen Malpede’s “The Beekeeper’s Daughter” (Photo credit: Beatrice Schiller)

George Bartenieff in a scene from Karen Malpede’s “The Beekeeper’s Daughter” (Photo credit: Beatrice Schiller)

Evangeline Johns’ Sybil, sister of Robert, offers a lovely picture of empathy and love. She tailors to the physical and emotional needs of the refugee, knowing the pain she has endured and strives to make her as comfortable and safe as possible. Leona’s Admira provides gradual insight into the events that have impacted her character, appearing quiet and reserved when first meeting the family and then vigorously opening up as random occurrences remind her of the trauma she experienced.

While it is apparent that the complexities of these relationships run extremely deep, it is at times, hard to follow the backstory or history behind the deep-rooted animosity, as in the case of the father and his lover. P.J. Brennan’s Jamie is also a young journalist and seems to spend quite a bit of time at the home with family causing the family many quarrels. Watching their intense conflicts play out on stage, prompts further questions about the exact issues that plague them and is a bit baffling to take in. Though allowing for plenty of time to tell this story, two hours without an intermission is quite exhausting as it requires focus and stamina to follow a plot as deep as this – without any breaks to pause in between.

Evangeline Johns, George Bartenieff and P.J. Brennan in a scene from Karen Malpede’s “The Beekeeper’s Daughter” (Photo credit: Beatrice Schiller)

Evangeline Johns, George Bartenieff and P.J. Brennan in a scene from Karen Malpede’s “The Beekeeper’s Daughter” (Photo credit: Beatrice Schiller)

The scenic design by Michaelangelo DeSerio relies on classic and somewhat elaborate pieces of furniture to embody a more affluent and beautiful atmosphere that contrasts with the terrifying and devastating circumstances of war occurring only a few hundred miles away. Sally-Ann Parsons and Carisa Kelly’s costume design is made up of  simple and loose-fitting apparel that is very appropriate for an island setting, but for Brennan, presents a bit of a distraction, as his tunic exposes a pair of shorts and a t-shirt underneath that could have been concealed better.

This important play reflects much of the violence and inequality that our world is battling in every region today. Showcasing conflict in different ways and from different viewpoints and spotlights, The Beekeeper’s Daughter fulfills its responsibility in bringing the vital issues to life and demanding attention.

The Beekeeper’s Daughter (through June 26, 2016)

Theater for the New City and Theater Three Collaborative

Theater for the New City, 155 1st Avenue, between 9th and 10th Streets, in Manhattan

For tickets, call 212-254-1109 or visit http://www.smarttix.com

Running time: two hours without an intermission

Courtney Marie
About Courtney Marie (43 Articles)
Courtney Marie is a New Jersey native with a tremendous love for the Big Apple. She has a degree in journalism and currently works in media. In addition to devouring all the theater that New York City has to offer, she also takes to the stage with AfterWork Theater Project and is grateful for the chance to perform with friends.

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