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A stylish exploration of a celebrity culture

As Bees in Honey Drown seeks to capture the spirit of a segment of 1980s New York society in the same way that Breakfast at Tiffany's did for an earlier time in the city, or the way Cabaret did for Weimar Berlin. Instead of Truman Capote or Christopher Isherwood, substitute Evan, a gay novelist with his first book out. Instead of Holly Golightly or Sally Bowles, substitute Alexa, who wants Evan to write her life story.

The title of Douglas Carter Beane's comedy, an off-Broadway hit several years ago and now playing at Florida Studio Theatre, refers to young artists and writers, models and actors, editors and record producers desperate to make it. And when they do make it, they become ensnared in "sticky sweet success . . . as bees in honey drown."

After Evan (Dan Lundy) poses shirtless for a magazine, he is summoned to the Hotel Paramount for lunch with Alexa (Celeste Ciulla), who marvels at his repartee and declares her love for writers. "They always have the last word, because they know so many," she says.

Evan is thoroughly smitten by this glamorous figure, who recounts her rise from "London party girl" to powerful record company executive in a tour de force of name dropping. "David Bowie wants to play my father," Alexa says of the movie of her life that she envisions.

Needless to say, things are not quite what they appear to be in Alexa's world, where movie deals are made by people "passing each other on the way to the restroom" in hard-to-get-into nightclubs. Playwright Beane knows the territory, having written screenplays, including To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything, Julie Newmar, with Patrick Swayze and Wesley Snipes playing against type as drag queens.

Lundy and Ciulla are well-matched, a good-looking pair on the lookout for the main chance, whose self-interests happen to coincide. They're charming and glib as long as it's convenient. Their archetypal relationship is the perfect vehicle for a fast-paced, witty exploration of "the hype, the buzz, the hum" of a celebrity-besotted culture. "Fame without achievement _ it's the safest bet I know," says Alexa.

The supporting cast _ Geana Anderson, Jim Scholfield, Lanette Ware and Lex Woutas _ does a good job of juggling multiple roles, from topless violinist to record company mogul.

Bees was directed by Michael Lasswell, who also designed the set. Lasswell has a knack for this sort of stylish entertainment, having directed a production of Travels of My Aunt last summer at FST that was similarly frothy and fun.

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