nytheatre.com review by Victoria Linchong
January 5, 2012
Unlike other revenge thrillers, The Bee offers no reassuring denouement of good triumphing over evil. Punctuated with an eclectic soundtrack ranging from Japanese pop to Puccini, the familiar vigilante tale of an ordinary man pushed to extreme measures by an attack against his family begins as a rollicking satire and coagulates into a devastating condemnation of violence as any sort of solution. By turns hilarious, gorgeous, sickening and tragic, The Bee offers New Yorkers the opportunity to experience the ingenuity of both acclaimed British actress Kathryn Hunter (seen also this season in Fragments directed by Peter Brook) and writer, director and actor Hideki Noda, whose work is highly celebrated in London and Japan, but has not been seen in New York City since 1988.
In The Bee, a Japanese businessman named Ido is besieged by reporters on his way home and discovers that his wife and son have been taken hostage by Ogoro, an escaped convict. A team of ineffectual rubber-band-chewing policemen led by Detective Inspector Dodoyama reveal that Ogoro’s act is a desperate (and rather irrational) attempt to win over his own wife and son. Ido takes matters in his own hands, first pleading with Ogoro’s wife, a “stolipa” in a nightclub, who callously rejects his heartfelt entreaty. In response, the victim turns victimizer—Ido seizes her and her son, mirroring Ogoro in his own household. “Two hostage situations, two locations, two criminals, but each with each other’s family,” Dodoyama exclaims, “Tell me, Ido, is it one case or two?” The situation devolves into a nightmarish downward spiral of one-upmanship as Ido attempts to resolve the situation through increasing acts of violence, culminating with a nearly wordless ritual that is as horrifying and riveting as a car accident on the street.
The remarkable ensemble cast of four features Clive Mendus, who spends most of his time behind the two-way mirror that dominates the fantastic set by Miriam Buether, both as the jaunty King of Chefs on television and the level-headed Dodoyama, who is reduced to resignedly delivering gruesome packages back and forth between Ido and Ogoro. Glyn Pritchard plays both the stuttering Ogoro and his ill-fated son, as well as a gleefully smarmy undercover cop. Noda, who is clearly a man, plays Ogoro’s wife, sashaying about in a cheap kimono, degenerating from terror to unhinged complicity, as Ido, played by Hunter, grows increasingly brazen and cruel.
This reversal of genders makes an interesting commentary on the relationship between violence and gender roles, particularly the machismo inherent in revenge thrillers and vigilante stories. Hunter has portrayed a number of over-confident self-destructive men including Richard III and King Lear, and as Ido, she descends from ruthless businessman to criminal, exultantly shooting off a gun, cockily strutting to Sinatra’s “My Way,” and making caveman-like demands for food and sex. Intriguingly, Ido’s only crisis of anxiety comes when he is confronted by a bee trapped in Ogoro’s house. Cringing, quailing, recoiling and all but weeping, Hunter’s agonizing trepidation is both disturbing and poignant, a strange and compelling last trait of humanity that counters the deadly diminishing circle of cruelty and indifference.