You may be too young to remember when this play by Shelagh Delaney was made into a film of the same name,”A Taste Of Honey” by Tony Richardson. Honestly, what I do recall about the movie I saw so many years ago is very sketchy.
A Taste Of Honey, extended to October 30th when it will play in repertory with David Harrower’s adoption of Ibsen, Public Enemy, at The Pearl, confirmed some of my memories, and expanded on them in a very satisfying way.
A girl, Jo (Rebekah Brockman) meets a sailor, Jimmy (Ade Otukaya). When her mother, Helen (Rachel Botchan) abandons her once again at Christmas time– this time to run off and marry Peter Smith (Bradford Cover)–, Jo takes up with her boyfriend in their apartment. Jimmy goes back to sea leaving a pregnant Jo to fend for herself. She is joined int the flat by an art student, Geoffrey (John Evans Reese), who is warm, nurturing and accepting. I recalled the sweetness of her relationship with Geoff, and the bourgeois life these two shared.
A precocious talent
A Taste Of Honey, written when Delaney was just 18, premiered in the West End in 1958 and had a run on Broadway. The Pearl’s is the first New York production in 35 years.
Richardson’s cine-adaptation (with Delaney collaborating on the script) did not prepare me for the avant-garde in Delaney’s stage play. She was a poet of the working-class, though her subsequent work never had as much fame as her first work.
Music Hall or barroom
A Taste Of Honey features on stage band, performing tunes from the Music Hall and Jazz repertoires. The accomplished trio here, all hep young musicians, under Phil Faconti’s (guitar) baton, include Max Boiko on trumpet and Walter Ashford Stinson on bass.
A Taste Of Honey, directed by Austin Pendleton, is a touch slow of pace. The ensemble are all terrific, although Rebekah Brockman lets Jo seem a bit too down-at-the mouth. Her character, Jo has remarkable strength, and some of that shows through in her interactions with Geoff. Botchan’s selfish mama is a whirlwind, and Brad Cover’s charasmatically non-chalant Peter is a breath of fresh air.
Harry Feiner’s perfectly messy stage set and Barbara A. Bell’s neat costumes allow A Taste Of Honey to make an expansive statement in its hsitoric context.
Visit pearltheatre.org to learn more.