Royal Jelly

Wes Babcock


This show, from Book of Why Productions, and written Kara Crabb, explores a struggle to find genuine human connection amidst a social hierarchy that dehumanizes and separates its members from one another. Simultaneously, it also criticizes the relevance of classical theatrical adaptations in the present day through a satirical recreation of the language, plot, and staging used in these productions.

The opening of this play is perfectly representative of what is to come from this ensemble cast, who make their initial appearance on stage in the matched robes and masks of a Greek chorus. It also implies the substance of the plot, which flows around the tension developed between the three characters attempting to live together while their culture forces them apart. The chorus work off the top is interesting, though not as smooth as it could be with some more practice.

The soundscape, created by designer Kara-Lis Coverdale, was immersive and did an excellent job creating the serious tone of impending tragedy that is so important to this production. I appreciated Coverdale’s looming presence sidestage as she provided some live musical elements and also created the notion that the metaverse, which I took to represent a larger society of similar colonies, had been watching and had condoned the development of the despicable acts we witness on stage.

The play proper is a very strange experience. The acting is intentionally huge and overdone, and we bear witness to the confining elements of the ornate language the characters speak; they break from its gaudy adornment only in moments of great emotional stress, when they resort to blatant cursing and rude gestures. The characters seem to understand the ridiculous confinement and separation they are obligated to live with, both physically in the bunker, and verbally in the linguistic conventions of their society. They deal with this by gesturing in an exaggerated and expansive fashion while intoning each large word with biting sarcasm that plays on many levels, all of which criticize some element of either their society or ours.

It is hard for me to comment of the level of acting skill in this production, because so much of what they do is intentionally exaggerated into unbelievability. But Kara Crabb, Noa Naussbaum, and Norah Paton all do that very well in their respective roles as Gal-Pal, Pap-X, and Suffagir throughout the show. I believed the absurd speech and physicality of characters was real, so despite the strangeness of this choice, the acting conveyed their struggles on a level more subtle than is usual for theatre. It was in breaking with the conventions of “good acting” so thoroughly that the actors are provided with a chance to show their skill. I can’t say I felt attached to any of the characters, as they were all so beyond my ability to sympathize with, but I did feel a sense of satisfaction (mixed with horror) at the fate that befalls them all at the end.

The society they enact was so repulsive, manipulative, and shockingly scary (and let’s not forget that this is a take on classical Greek tragedy, so what I’m about to say is not a spoiler), that I was happy when it all came crashing down. It was an interesting feeling to have at the end of a tragedy, and I’m not quite sure how to process it all.

I left this performance a little confused, but I do know that it was definitely an imaginative and vivid depiction of a situation that, while analogous to certain aspects of our own civilization, I hope remains firmly confined to the realm of fiction. I hope these folks keep thinking outside the theatrical box. You should see it if only because it’s so strange that it needs to be talked about.


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