Review: ‘Honey’ by Nameless Theater

“Clutch my pearls!” one audience member remarks toward the end of Nameless Theater’s motel-room drama, Honey, which has at least three throat-clutching twists during its less than 30-minute run time.

Palesa Pryor and Walter Parker Jr. in Honey. Photo courtesy of Nameless Theater.

Palesa Pryor and Walter Parker Jr. in Honey. Photo by Shot on Purpose Photography.

This pint-size show with a lot of punch is performed in an actual motel room at the Ivy City Hotel in D.C.’s up-and-coming Ivy City neighborhood. Nameless Theater specializes in presenting theater in unique locations. Its Happy Hour Theater has brought short performances to Heaven and Hell bar in Adams Morgan and Union Town bar in Anacostia, and the company is planning a Motel Series production in September that will offer three short performances in different hotel rooms. Nameless co-director (with Nia M. Barge) A’Leighsha C. Butler says its current production, with performances through April 14, is a sort of prototype for the series.

For Honey, audience members congregate in and outside the lobby of Ivy City Hotel for a pre-show spiel and shot of Jack Daniels Honey Whiskey before walking as a group across the hotel’s parking lot to a second-story room, which accommodates up to 12 audience members.

It’s an intimate show in an intimate space, and the closeness of the actors to the audience creates a heightened sense of excitement. The guests walk in on a man flipping through TV channels in a sleeveless undershirt and boxers on a king-size bed. As we take our seats around the small room, a young woman in a black teddy comes out of the bedroom, and asks him, “How was it?” We learn the man, John (Walter Parker Jr.), has been purchasing 17-year-old Honey’s (Palesa Pryor) sexual services on a weekly basis for two years. Tonight is different, though. John, a lonely 40ish truck driver, offers to pay her extra to stay and just talk with him. It is implied that this is the first time in their time together he’s made such a request.

Palesa Pryor and Walter Parker Jr. in Honey. Photo courtesy of Nameless Theater.

Walter Parker Jr. and Palesa Pryor in Honey. Photo by Shot on Purpose Photography.

The two banter about the nature of sex work, his life as a truck driver, her love of everything about honey and how “whores don’t have no fathers.” But, soon Honey starts talking about her childhood, and the first twist of the short evening comes. There’s not much else to say about the plot without giving away the payoff of seeing Honey in person.

Nameless’ co-directors created the production. Butler, the playwright, presents a script that is lyrical and smart, and Barge, the show’s director, makes the most of the small space with blocking that happens primarily on the bed, save for a final scene in the bathroom. The acting is stellar throughout. Pryor presents Honey as playful, deceptively uninhibited and troubled. Parker Jr. displays a range of emotions over the revelations of the conversation. I wanted more of everything.

All of the pieces of the show are so satisfying, it was disappointing when it wrapped in less than 30 minutes (especially after driving 50 minutes each way from Baltimore to see it). The drama happens so quickly, the story could benefit from more breathing room to have even more of an impact. I wanted to see more of the nature of the pair’s established relationship before it started changing with each revelation. However, the impressive script, acting chops and intimate space make Honey worth driving nearly two hours for, even if it’s just for a taste of this exciting company’s work.

Running Time: About 30 minutes.

Honey, presented by Nameless Theater, plays through April 14, 2018, at Ivy City Hotel – 1615 New York Ave NE, Washington, DC. To purchase tickets, go online.

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