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Off Broadway Reviews

we were promised honey!

Theatre Review by Howard Miller - May 12, 2023

Sam Ward
Photo by Mihaela Bodlovic
A little bit bleak, a little bit hopeful. That's the story of we were promised honey!, a presentation of YESYESNONO Productions opening tonight as part of the Brits Off Broadway festival at 59E59 Theaters.

Written and performed by Sam Ward, the 65-minute solo piece (with mildly coerced audience participation) is a visionary science fiction-ish tale that carries us through years, decades, centuries, even millennia into the future. It is a story that does not have a happy ending, as we are warned more than once. But since that ending doesn't take place until the last black hole absorbs the last bit of matter from a collapsing universe, I wouldn't lose sleep worrying about it.

One thing you might be advised to do is to pay particular attention to a recording of an actual conversation we can hear before and, at times, during the play. It takes place between an air traffic controller and an untrained would-be pilot who has stolen a plane and is off on a joyride without a thought to getting back safely. This gives the play its overall theme, and it is the one verifiably true element to the entire enterprise, which generally is made up of short fanciful segments that occasionally intersect.

Over the course of the performance, we are presented with these mostly self-contained fragments that are sometimes shaped by suggestions from audience members, those who accept Ward's invitation to contribute to and/or act out bits of the story. At the performance I attended, for example, we spent some time in a forest in Antarctica, admiring penguins while assisting a very pregnant woman to a safe shelter in a lighthouse. Your experience might be somewhat different.

Clearly, we were promised honey!, while well crafted, has an air of experimental theater to it. Don't go looking for a clean plot; it's more about random glimpses into the future, one that is either mutable or predetermined. Up to you to decide. In the realm of science fiction, the play would perhaps fit within the sphere of postmodern writers like Harlan Ellison, with memorable imagery rising to the forefront above traditional narrative.

As befits the overall style, which emphasizes an intimate connection with the audience, there is little by way of design elements outside of a handheld mike and a few props. Nevertheless, the overall mood is helped in no small way by the effective lighting by David Doyle and the soundscape by Carmel Smickersgill. As a storyteller, Sam Ward is quite adroit at drawing us in, so that even if you are averse to audience participation, chances are you will join in a group sing-along to a chorus of a hard-to-resist John Denver song when the time comes. As for "meaning," I'll leave you to mull over that as you file out of the theatre and into the night air.

we were promised honey!
Through May 21, 2023
YESYESNONO Productions
59E59 Theaters, Theater C, 59 E. 59th St., New York NY
Tickets online and current performance schedule: