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Strawdog theatre begins its 2017-2018, 30th Anniversary Season with a Chicago Premiere of Barbecue by Robert O’Hara. Barbecue is performed at Steppenwolf’s 1700 Theatre as a LookOut Visiting Company.

In Strawdog’s Barbecue, a spirited trailer trash family is having a summer barbecue with an ulterior motive in mind: they want one of theirs, Barbara, to get help for her drug and alcohol problems. The most reasonable of them came up with the perfect rehab solution and wants other siblings to chime in. Squabbling around, as they normally do, smoking, drinking and calling each other names, the siblings can’t quite agree on most things except that their sister is an embarrassment to the whole family and definitely needs an intervention. They try to be considerate too, especially since the rehab might give Barbara “freezer burn”.

Without giving away too much, let’s just say that midway through the first Act there’s an intriguing race switch. The switching back and forth between the two races adds a fascinating dimension to the story and infuses the play with another cultural language; and plus, it’s cool to watch.

When Barbara finally shows up at the barbecue, everyone’s ready, albeit with a taser to subdue her if necessary. Taking turns, they present their arguments (mostly made up stories) to their bound and gagged sister, while making interesting bets for the outcome.

Robert O’Hara has such a great way with words; his characters are hilarious and wacky, they’re a fun bunch that’s keeping it real and holds nothing back. Director Damon Kiely chose a marvelously talented cast for the play that includes Strawdog Ensemble Members John Henry Roberts and Kamille Dawkins with guest artists Kristin Collins, Celeste Cooper, Anita Deely, Barbara Figgins, Deanna Reed Foster, Abby Pierce, Terence Simms and Ginneh Thomas. Minimalist set (set designer Joanna Iwanicka, props designer Leah Hummel) is to the point and doesn’t detract from the action on stage.

Act One ends with an unexpected twist. After the intermission, there’re more twists, the order of things gets changed, and the characters are propelled to fame and fortune. Enter Hollywood, wised up Barbara, a black movie star, and the race switch now makes sense. Second act’s takeaway message: “Everything is bullshit”. After all, life is all but a stage.

Barbecue is highly recommended and is being performed through September 30th. For more show information visit www.strawdog.org.

Published in Theatre in Review

Strawdog Theatre Company and Artistic Directors Michael Dailey, Heath Hays and Anderson Lawfer are proud to announce the first production in their 2017 – 2018 season, Barbecue by Robert O’Hara, August 17 – September 30, with direction by Damon Kiely at Steppenwolf Theatre Company’s 1700 Theatre, 1700 N. Halsted Street as a LookOut Visiting Company.  Opening night performance is Monday Aug. 28 at 8 p.m. Previews are Thursday, Aug. 17 and Aug. 24, Friday, Aug. 18 and Aug. 25, Saturday, Aug. 19 and Aug. 26 at 8 p.m. and Sunday, August 27 at 3:30 p.m. Regular run performances are Fridays at 8 p.m., Saturdays at 3:30 and 8 p.m. and Sundays at 3:30 p.m. Preview tickets are $35, regular run tickets are $45. Strawdog subscribers enjoy 25% off all ticket prices. This production is also available to Steppenwolf’s Red and Black Card holders. Group, senior, student, industry, and rush discounts are also available. To purchase subscriptions to Strawdog’s 2017-18 Season, visit www.strawdog.org. To purchase single tickets to Barbecue, please visit https://www.steppenwolf.org/tickets--events/seasons/2017-18/barbecue/?id=24118 or call 312-335-1650.
 
A modern American family uses a summer barbecue as a pretext to ambush sister Barbara with an intervention.  If you think “all families are crazy” is just a cliché, you’ve not spent time under the influence of the O'Mallerys.  An afternoon in the park with these raucous siblings and you'll be challenging your own assumptions about family, race, and reality. The Chicago premiere of Barbecue by Obie and Helen Hayes Award winner Robert O’Hara will have you laughing out loud and questioning how it’s true that in America, you sometimes taze the ones you love.

Since its world premiere, Barbecue has received critically acclaim. The Los Angeles Times said, “Ferociously funny! Barbecue raucously sends up the sociological pantomime — life as an award-seeking existential burlesque,” and “Wickedly delightful!” by TheaterMania.com. Variety’s review included, “Barbecue, shrewdly turns the formula for the American domestic comedy on its head.”
The Barbecue cast includes Strawdog Ensemble Members John Henry Roberts and Kamille Dawkins with guest artists Kristin Collins, Celeste Cooper, Anita Deely, Barbara Figgins, Deanna Reed Foster, Abby Pierce, Terence Simms and Ginneh Thomas.
 
The Barbecue design team includes Strawdog Ensemble Members Costume Designer Aly Greaves Amidei and Sound Designer Heath Hayes with guest artists: Director Damon Kiely, Assistant Director Michael Burke, Set Designer Joanna Iwanicka, Lighting Designer Jared Gooding, Props Designer Leah Hummel and Dramaturg Taylor Barfield. 

Published in Upcoming Theatre
Saturday, 04 February 2017 12:21

Enjoy Some "Bootcandy"!

Bootycandy is about Sutter, an African American gay man’s experience from adolescence to adulthood. The play touches on many different aspects and felt like several puzzle pieces coming together throughout its duration, each falling perfectly into place to create a path whereas the production is able to end on a high note that is sensible and believable. 

 

The play opens with Sutter, played by Travis Turner, asking his mother why she refers to his penis as a ‘bootycandy.’ The conversation that follows is comical and sets the tone for the rest of the play. 

 

One of the best scenes is performed by Osiris Khepera where he is a pastor at a church and talks about “they heard folk”, whispering why some of the choir folks smile at one another and why he personally hasn’t taken up a wife. Many of the sentiments in this scene touches on the perspective of the black community on homosexuality. At the end of the powerful sermon, he reveals something he has been hiding underneath his gown.  

 

A scene that was hilarious, but uncomfortable, was when Krystal McNeil and Debrah Neal played four different characters to talk about how someone in the community named their child Genitalia Lakeitha Shamala Abdul. Yes, Genitalia. Later in the play you see her as a lesbian having a ceremony to break up with her partner. 

 

The heart of the play centers on Sutter’s experience when he was in his teens at the library. A man had been following him and talking to him for quite some time and he decides to tell his mother and stepfather over dinner who barely looked up from his magazine. The experience for Sutter shows a dark side of him when he takes home a drunk, straight white male (Rob Fenton) with his friend. This was one of the hardest scenes to watch; it was dark, dramatic, and felt too real. 

 

Sutter’s character involves many layers. The play cuts to another scene right after to show Sutter visiting his grandmother in a nursing home. He decides to order some ribs for her on his iPhone. A more subdued Sutter who you can’t help but feel sorry for. 

  

The cast works extremely well together, Turner leading the way. Five actors in this winning play act as several different characters, each providing a strong performance. 

 

Catch Bootycandy, written and directed by Robert O’Hara, at Windy City Playhouse (3014 North Irving Park) through April 15th. Tickets range from $15-$55. The show does contain a scene with full-frontal nudity. Be sure to check out the catchy cocktails inspired by the play.  

 

Published in Theatre in Review

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