One Lick of “Bootycandy” and You’re Hooked

Photo credit: Glenn Perry Photography

Photo credit: Glenn Perry Photography

Presented by Speak Easy Stage Company
Written by Robert O’Hara
Directed by Summer L. William

March 12-April 9, 2016
Stanford Calderwood Pavilion
Boston Center for the Arts
Speak Easy on Facebook

Review by Travis Manni

(Boston, MA) Growing up gay and black is a very specific experience, and not one with which I will ever be able to identify. But Robert O’Hara’s hilarious and honest show gives the closest to an authentic experience anybody could possibly get.

Through a myriad of episodic scenes that take place on a non-linear timeline, ranging from the 1970s to the present, this show is a true reflection of O’Hara’s life as a gay and black man. The only constants in the various scenes are the themes of race and sexuality, and a script so clever and sharp O’Hara had me eating from the palm of his hand.

The scenes provided a great balance between drama and comedy. In one, a handful of women gossip on the phone about a mother naming her child Genitalia. Another scene depicts four black writers on a discussion panel as a white interviewer makes sideways generalizations about how the writers should be expressing their blackness. It was a perfect depiction of how it feels to be a writerof color in a world obsessed with the non-white experience; it’s not always about race!

More dramatic scenes focused on sexual tension and pushed the limits of how human connection and the moral repercussions of our actions can affect us. While it was a bit unsettling to be confronted with these higher stakes scenarios, it was during these darker segments that we got to know the true intentions of the playwright. And the small sprinklings of O’Hara’s fast humor were more than enough to carry the audience.

The cast’s chemistry and range was unprecedented, each performer as dynamic and hilarious as the last. Tiffany Nichole Greene had such precise dialectic talent as Adella and Shirley, two southern women on the phone gossiping, but then snapped into the role of Sutter’s Young Sibling, a giddy, foul-mouthed kindergartener, without me pausing for a second to question her. Johnny Lee Davenport was a damn queen as the fabulously sassy Reverend Benson, and then a charming riot as Old Granny. And Maurice Emmanuel Parent as Sutter, the character we watched grow from young boy to grown man, never lost track of O’Hara’s mission to tell an unfiltered and genuine story.

On the surface, Bootycandy is a play about race and sexuality that will have you laughing from beginning to end. Every laugh was perfectly cued and never felt forced, the true mark of a masterful comedic writer. But at its core, it is the most honest, liberated piece of self-expression that I have had the pleasure of watching in a very long time.

Bootycandy runs for 2 hours, 15 minutes with one intermission and contains adult content, strong language and nudity. To purchase tickets, click here.

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