.West Coast Premiere of ‘Bees & Honey’

Bachata is a bittersweet genre of music. Inextricably linked with its Dominican homeland, the art form arose as a way for the most vulnerable in Dominican society to express themselves during an oppressive regime.

It’s fitting that a Bachata song was the inspiration for playwright Guadalís Del Carmen’s Bees & Honey, a love story with the bittersweet soul of a Bachata. Marin Theatre Company is hosting the Karina Gutiérrez-directed show’s West Coast premiere in Mill Valley through March 10.

Manuel (Jorge Lendeborg Jr.) and Johaira (Katherine George) meet at a Bachata club the night after Johaira gets accepted into law school. Within a few years, they are married. Manuel owns a successful mechanics shop and is building a second location. Johaira is an attorney with the D.A.’s office, who has just been handed a high-profile sexual assault case.

The plot is predictable from there. With the challenges that come with different career paths, family obligations and a personal tragedy, will they or won’t they be able to weather the storms of married life and stay together?

Despite the trite script, the actors do shine. Lendeborg’s boyish enthusiasm radiates from the stage. It’s hard not to side with him in arguments, even when we are clearly meant not to do so. His charisma and vulnerability allow the show’s unsurprising ending to retain its heartbreak.

George’s high-stakes type-A attorney is grounded and truthful in her professional persona and in the rare moments when Del Carmen allows the character to let down her hair. She also beautifully keeps the unexpected choreography that runs through the play intentional and powerful.

The realistic set by Carlos Antonio Aceves and its beautifully unexpected use of a scrim is stationary. It made for slow scene transitions that kept robbing the show of much-needed momentum and made a terse show even more baffling.

It’s hard to guess what could have been going on off-stage during transitions that ran so long as to leave the audience wondering if the show was in intermission (there isn’t one). It might have been costume changes. But costumer Alice Ruiz has done a commendable job of keeping the costumes uncomplicated without sacrificing storytelling.

Hopefully, those transitions tighten during the show’s run. If something as silly as scene changes derails what these two talented actors and their director have accomplished by turning a thin script into a full-blown love song, it would be a tragedy.

‘Bees & Honey’ runs Weds-Sun through March 10 at Marin Theatre Company, 397 Miller Ave., Mill Valley. Weds-Sat, 7:30pm; Sat & Sun, 2pm. $12-$66. 415.388.5208. marintheatre.org.

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