This past weekend, the Radical Buffoons hosted their opening weekend of Barbeque. Deemed a “F#@%ed up family comedy,” this dark, witty, hysterical satire follows the story of the dangerously dysfunctional O’Mallery siblings, represented throughout the play by two parallel families—one black and one white.
After the first act, the lights go out completely, and the white characters we were first introduced to are now replaced and played by black actors. Though their stereotypical differences are immediately evident, something both versions of the O’Mallery families share is the purpose of their orchestrated outside gathering. This isn’t just any barbeque; the siblings gather to host an intervention for their “life of the party” sister Barbra, who carries the nickname “Zippity Boom” (Boom, for her explosive personality). The family decides to lure Zippity Boom with a free party and liquor. But they opt to host the gathering in a public space, fearing her reaction once she realizes she was brought to the park to be told she’s a crack-head alcoholic who needs to accept professional help. As the story line unravels over the two hours packed with stomach-clenching amusement, the audience learns that all members of the O’Mallery family struggle with some sort of addiction, ranging from weed to prescription pills.
So, you know those plots that are nearly indescribable, because if you say too much, you’ll give it away? We’ve all had to give similar responses to these before:
“You gotta go see it!”
“What’s it about?”
“I can’t tell you because I’ll spoil it. Just trust me—go see it!”
Well, Barbeque is one of those kinds of plays. With that said, that’s about all the storyline that can be described without ruining the play’s carefully crafted plot twists. Written by Robert O’Hara, it’s a thoughtfully scripted piece that, through crude humor, explores and highlights important themes of race, class, and cultural stereotyping. Furthermore, the play serves as a timely reminder that we should not be so comfortable as to consume things with a grain of salt; not everything is always what it seems, and one should never be quick to consider anything as the whole or absolute truth.
So okay, I can’t talk about the plot anymore, but there are a few things I can talk about:
- Costumes: The costumes (by Aya Design) included in the play are as trashy and exaggerated as the characters. They have an important responsibility to maintain the blatant stereotypical themes that the play surrounds, and they do just that.
- The set: The play is held at the Fortress of Lushington, an intimate, quaint performance space located in the 2200 block of Burgundy. If you’ve never been, know that presence in the venue itself is just as enjoyable as the performances it holds. The set was colorfully and creatively designed by Bunny Lushington into an outdoor park site equipped with picnic tables and a sign that comically and fittingly reads “Pitch In: Put trash in its place.” The set is so realistic that I almost anticipated smelling the imaginary burgers being flipped on the grill. Props are by Megan Kosmoski and the paintings and murals are by Colleen Ryan and @Artby_Jay.
- The cast: Directed by Jon Greene and Torey Hayword, the Radical Buffoons do an impeccable job bringing the play and its characters to life with captivating energy and vigor. While committing to the portrayal of over-the-top stereotypical differences, the cast still skillfully maintains key personality traits in both racial versions of the play’s characters. Lillie Anne, the powerhouse behind the intervention’s arrangement, is played by Chrissy Jacobs and Zondra Howard. O’Mallery brother James T, marijuana addict, is played by James Yeargain and Wayland Cooper. Adlean, a sister with breast cancer and a prescription-pill addiction, is played by Natasha Brown and Naomi Daugherty. Marie, a sister with a “recreational crack” habit, is played by Rebecca Leigh and Tenaj Jackson, and last, but absolutely not least, “Zippity Boom” is played by Natalie Boyd and Mahalia Abeo Tibbs.
Barbeque isn’t one to miss; reoccurring shows will be held at the Fortress of Lushington, 2215 Burgundy St., weekends through April 6. For more information or to buy tickets, go to radicalbuffoons.com/barbecue.