An upcoming production of “The Birds and the Bees” is sure to bring something Whidbey Playhouse audiences have never seen before to the stage this weekend.
The adult comedy by Mark Crawford tells the story of 38-year-old Sarah, a turkey farmer who moves back in with her mother, Gail, after her marriage falls apart. The play is new to the Whidbey Playhouse, both because it has never been performed there before and because it is unlike the theater’s typical productions.
Gaye Dressen Litka, who plays Gail, said she heard about the play from a friend of hers, who saw it in Vancouver and suggested the Whidbey Playhouse take it on. Litka said that while the risque content might shock some viewers — as the title of the show suggests, the play explores sexual themes and contains some nudity — she thinks it will also appeal to new patrons who might enjoy the racy comedy.
“It’s a little out there. It’s a little edgy,” she said. “It’s not what Whidbey Playhouse patrons are going to be used to seeing.”
Amy Malmkar, who plays Sarah, said at its heart the play is about relationships of all kinds, from parents and neighbors to friends with benefits and one night stands.
Director Sarah Gallella said the mother-daughter relationship between Gail and Sarah is the crux of the show — it was this element that led to her interest in directing the production.
“There’s a lot about this that reminds me of my mother and my daughter,” she said. “The things that Gail says are things that I’ve heard my mother say.”
Malmkar, too, said the characters reminded her of her own relationship with her mother. Litka added that this is part of the show’s charm — the story could be about anybody.
“I think the audiences are going to listen to this dialogue and say, ‘I know that person,’ or ‘That sounds like my mom,’” Litka said.
For Ben Honeycutt, who plays Gail’s neighbor, Earl, the show’s newness has made it an exciting experience. The play was published in 2016 and has never been performed in the U.S. before.
Honeycutt said that the Whidbey Playhouse typically leans toward the tried and true in its play selections; seeing the theater branch out has been refreshing, and he hopes it will attract new and younger patrons.
Putting on a show that audiences aren’t familiar with also allows for creative freedom as a performer, he said.
“The cool thing about doing fairly new shows is they don’t have a huge track record behind them, so there’s not been a lot of interpretation by previous actors,” Honeycutt said.
The Whidbey News-Times’s own Wesley Moran plays Ben, a grad student studying Gail’s honeybee colony. Moran said “The Birds and the Bees” offers a heartfelt look at a number of nearly ubiquitous challenges, from navigating complicated parental relationships, to struggling romantically, to handling unexpected events.
“It is what our director has coined an ‘important comedy’ because it holds a lot of important issues that people deal with in their day-to-day lives,” he said.
Gallella said the experienced cast has been wonderful to work with, and she hopes that, above all else, the show will bring joy to those who come to see it.
“I want them to be entertained, and I want them to feel that they’ve watched something special,” she said.
“The Birds and the Bees” runs June 2-18, with Friday and Saturday performances beginning at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday matinees beginning at 2:30 p.m. Tickets are available online at whidbeyplayhouse.com. This show contains sexual content, language and some nudity.