A new beginning might well make for a tragic ending in Ciara Elizabeth Smyth’s award winning new comedy “All Honey.” With their new apartment, and hosting a house warming party to celebrate their new life ahead, life should be good for loving couple Ru and Luke. Except a new nightdress might well see their new life ruined by one of life’s oldest stories. While secrets and suspicions pile up in the box room, Ru’s best friend Mae knows what she knows, even if she doesn’t have any evidence to prove it. Val might strut around like she’s Little Miss Dynamite, but she’s really ready to blow the whole thing wide open this time. And shag-king Barry, well, he’s just…shagging Barry. As molehills become mountains, and ridiculous suspicions become possible truths, relationships and friendships are put to the test in a Mexican standoff where no one might possibly survive. Fast, furious, and fiercely funny, “All Honey” is a laugh-out-loud joy, featuring some seriously impressive comedy talent.
“All Honey,” kicking off the new season at Bewleys Café Theatre following its run in the Dublin Fringe Festival 2017 where it won the prestigious Fishamble New Writing Award, finds playwright Ciara Elizabeth Smyth at something of a crossroads. Feeling like a mash up of Friends meets Brooklyn Nine Nine, “All Honey” fuses hints of the former while being firmly grounded in the zaniness of shows like the latter. While its elevated shoes, or life coaches doling out hug therapy, show Smyth’s impressive comic stylings still leaning towards the TV sketch show format, there’s a real sense of a really good play buried beneath all the wackiness. Yet while sketch moments and laughs are delivered in Niagara sized barrel-fulls, the play underneath never fully emerges. Relying almost exclusively on its excellent gags, it all comes to an abrupt, and somewhat unsatisfying halt. As it stands, “All Honey” keeps you laughing till it doesn’t, ending like the season finale of Game of Thrones. Only there is no following season to bring it all home. And you so want Smyth to bring these characters home.
Which is not so much a criticism so much as a question of choice. For “All Honey” delights just fine as it is, feeling like the sugar rush after a large pack of Licorice Allsorts. But “All Honey” also suggests that Smyth has the capacity to deliver something truly extraordinary. Her wacky comic characters, and simple straight men and women, trapped for an evening in a bizarre situation, sees Smyth’s script share a 21st century affinity with timeless comic classics such as Joseph Kesselring’s Arsenic and Old Lace and George S. Kaufman and Moss Harts, The Man Who Came To Dinner. Company in which Smyth seems well capable of holding her own.
David Fennelly as Luke, and Danielle Galligan as Ru, both do extraordinarily well playing what are essentially a straight man and straight-woman to three, wild comedians. Keith Jordan’s Barry might be a larger than life, loathsome lothario, yet he can come across as too much of a Ross O’Carroll Kelly wannabe, yet with none of the charm. The absence of which risks Barry seeming more of a device than a character, and one with no redeeming features, which Jordan negotiates incredibly well, hinting that there’s so much more to play with. That ‘more’ being provided by the extraordinarily brilliant, Ashleigh Dorrell, as the high maintenance Mae, once again confirming her credentials as one of the most extraordinarily talented comic actresses around. As is Ciara Elizabeth Smyth, delighting as the scene stealingly, deeply damaged, Val, the lynchpin holding this delightfully disastrous night together. Smyth is riveting throughout, running the gamut from wild and crazy to displaying the plays only real moment of pathos, as Val’s mask drunkenly slips to reveal the barely hidden tears and heartfelt vulnerability behind her belligerent boisterousness. Jeda de Brí directs with wonderful assurance, capturing the immense theatricality in Smyth’s hilarious script, in a fantastically clever, licorice themed set design by Sinead Purcell.
Like gorging on a large jar of honey, “All Honey” might start to taste the same after a while, and might not be as satisfying as something more substantial, but it is still a delightful guilty pleasure and a deliciously indulgent treat. One so hilariously and joyously funny, you will be hard pressed to find anything remotely as enjoyable to indulge in, especially during lunch time. So go on, treat yourself. Gorge on all the honey you can handle. It’s just sooo good.
“All Honey” by Ciara Elizabeth Smyth, produced by Sad Strippers Theatre, runs at Bewley’s Café Theatre @Powerscourt until January 27th
For more information, visit Bewleys Café Theatre