Thursday, September 4, 2014

Bootycandy **

This work by Robert O’Hara, now in previews at Playwrights Horizons, is a loose assemblage of sketches, most of them comedic, that don’t really fit together very well. The central character is Sutter (Phillip James Brannon) whom we see as an effeminate black child, a misunderstood teenager, a black playwright with a taste for racial vengeance, and a loving grandson. The scenes that include him have a loose narrative thread. Other scenes include a monologue by a preacher who comes out as a cross dresser and another by a man trying to talk himself out of a mugging. A clever costume trick is the gimmick of a hilarious scene depicting a phone conversation with two actors playing four characters. In a darker vein there is a long scene about two brothers-in-law who have a complex and painful relationship. The final scene of act one is an amusing faux conference at Playwrights Horizons with a panel comprised of the alleged authors of the previous sketches and a clueless white moderator. After intermission there is a funny yet moving scene of Sutter’s family at the dinner table. This is followed by an overlong sketch of two lesbians, Genitalia and Intifada, undoing their commitment ceremony. A friend accurately described it as a Saturday Night Live sketch that wears out its welcome. The evening turns very dark with a playlet about Sutter and a flaming butch queen friend picking up a drunk, emotionally unstable white man in a bar and going back to his hotel. In the aftermath, there is a Brechtian moment in which the actors rebel against the playwright and decide to skip the (nonexistent) prison scene. We end with Sutter reminiscing with his grandmother at her nursing home. The language is consistently and outrageously vulgar and there is both graphic description of sexual acts and extended male nudity (tellingly, by the only white actor). The best argument for the play is the opportunity it provides for five terrific actors to show their mettle. Jessica Frances Dukes, Jesse Pennington, Benja Kay Thomas and Lance Coadie Williams play multiple roles with great gusto. The revolving set and appropriately over-the-top costumes by Clint Ramos are first-rate. Once again I am persuaded that, in general, playwrights should not direct their own work. There are multiple instances where scenes run on much too long, a fault another director might well have corrected. I really hoped I could recommend it with more enthusiasm, but its many faults cancel out most of its strengths. I won't give away the meaning of the title. Running time: 2 hours 15 minutes including intermission.

1 comment:

Andy Humm said...

Yes. Less would have been more for this show.