Mac Rogers’ Advance Man starts out simply enough- Amelia Cooke (Kristen Vaughan) suspects that her husband Bill (Sean Williams), one of the 5 famous astronauts that returned from the first manned mission to Mars 3 years ago, may be having an affair. She hires a private investigator named Lynn (Amanda Duarte) to find out the truth… and they end up instead stumbling across a massive conspiracy that involves the new Green environmental initiative developed by the other surviving ex-astronauts- Raf (Abraham Makany), Valerie (Shaun Bennet Wilson), Belinda (Rebecca Comtois), and Conor (Jason Howard) who was badly injured during the return voyage and now has symptoms similar to those of a stroke victim, and who has been living with Bill and Amelia and their teenage children Abbie (David Rosenblatt) and Ronnie (Becky Byers) ever since the return of the astronauts.
I don’t want to give away too much of the excellently rendered plot, but the play is fascinating, suspenseful, and gripping, and will be of especial interest to fans of the science fiction genre. Vaguely reminiscent of movies like The Astronaut’s Wife and books like A Wrinkle in Time, Advance Man still manages to be original and full of surprising turns. Some of the other audience members next to me seemed confused by the machinations of the plot at intermission, so this play certainly rewards close scrutiny and/or requires a modicum of genre savviness to fully grasp, but it’s well worth the effort.
The entire cast is excellent across the board. Jason Howard is especially impressive, fully embodying Conor’s fractured psyche, and getting me a little choked up near the end of the play. Kristen Vaughan is the emotional center of the play, as not just her family but her world begins changing in ways she doesn’t understand. Becky Byers exemplifies teenage mischief and rebellion as Ronnie. Brian Silliman is hilarious as Kip, a naïve billionaire who is funding the ex-astronauts’ environmental goals.
The play takes place in the Cooke’s home in Coral Gables, with a wonderfully Floridian set design by Sandy Yaklin. Sarah Lurie’s lighting design leaves odd menacing dark spots scattered about the stage. Amanda Jenks’ costume design is perfectly character-specific, but doesn’t always flatter the performers.
This is truly an excellent play- Mac Rogers is one of the most intriguing playwrights working today. The show is a bit on the lengthy side- the first act alone is an hour and a half. Though this is just part 1 of an epic trilogy, the play stands on its own. However, I am highly anticipating the next two installments of The Honeycomb Trilogy. Those will premiere later this year (Part 2 in March, and Part 3 in June), during the six-month residency at the Secret Theatre of the BFG Collective (a cooperative producing experiment between Boomerang Theatre Company, Flux Theatre Ensemble, and Gideon Productions).
Advance Man (part 1 of The Honeycomb Trilogy)
by Mac Rogers
Gideon Productions as part of the BFG Collective residency at
The Secret Theatre: 44 02 23rd Street, Long Island City (7 or N/Q to Queensboro Plaza)
January 12-29; Thursday through Saturday at 8pm and Sundays at 3pm with additional performances on Wednesday, January 18 and Monday, January 23 at 8pm.
Photo credit: Deborah Alexander
L-R Sean Williams, Jason Howard, and Becky Byers