BWW Review: BARBECUE Will Keep You Laughing as the Tale of Two Families Evolves
Playwright Robert O'Hara provides the mood-setting intro for the West Coast premiere of his comedy BARBECUE now playing at the Geffen Playhouse in Westwood through October 16. And while his very off-color language is shocking at first, I guarantee it will start you laughing and prepare you for the very realistic language used throughout the play.
The play begins with trailer trash Southern white siblings meeting at a local park to do an intervention with another of their siblings since they have already lost two others to alcohol and drugs. Naturally all of them suffer from their own demons and very vocally let each other know exactly how they feel about life in their own unique ways. Each comment is funnier than the last and even their stupidity will keep your roaring with laughter. How could their unseen sibling be any worse off than this politically incorrect motley crew?
But when their drug-addicted sister Barbara, AKA Zippity Boom, arrives strung-out and out of control, her siblings have finally had enough - enough beer, enough whiskey and enough pills - to confront her, even while consuming too much themselves. Their ham-handed intervention ignites the fuse of this raucous and rollicking new comedy that skewers our warped view of the American family and Hollywood Dreams of Stardom.
It's difficult to know how much of the plot to reveal since the element of surprise is an important component to the play. Let's just say there is a surprising second scene in which the same characters are played by a completely different set of actors who are black. Both group's attitudes and situations remain the same but the racial undertones put an entirely different slant on each family, adding even more humor when you realize just how similar all siblings support and love each other despite their racial differences. Star turns by Frances Fisher and Yvette Cason as the two Lillie Annes trying to convince their siblings to go along with their self-designed invention plans, and Cherise Boothe who plays the attempting-to-be-clean black Barbara with such panache, you can't help but love her.
And while the plot may not sound like it, BARBECUE has to be one of the funniest plays you will see this year thanks to the talented direction by Tony nominee Colman Domingo and his talented cast featuring Cherise Boothe, Yvette Cason, Dale Dickey, Omar J. Dorsey, Frances Fisher, Kimberly Hébert Gregory, Travis Johns, Elyse Mirto, Heather Alicia Simms and Rebecca Wisocky as the two families. It's a perfect comedy for Los Angeles audiences, many of whom - spoiler alert - hold the same Oscar dream in their own hearts.
Special kudos to costumer Kara Harmon for her vision of both families right down to the daisy dukes and crop tops through magnificent class-related formal wear. The downhome park set designed by Sibyl Wickersheimer will no doubt remind you of your own family barbecues at a local park with lighting and sound effects by Lap Chi Chu and Lindsay Jones enhancing the outdoor vibe. Trust me - when the lights go dark, be prepared for surprises galore! And even if you are totally confused by the changes at first, just laugh right along with the cast and all will eventually be revealed.
Tickets are currently priced from $43 to $84 for the regular run (Sept 14 - Oct 16), and are available online at www.geffenplayhouse.org, via phone at 310.208.5454, or in-person at the Geffen Playhouse box office. Based on seat availability, rush tickets may be available onsite 30 minutes prior to show time. Rush tickets are priced at $35 for general admission and $10 for students, with a valid student I.D. Performances take place in the in the Gil Cates Theater at the Geffen Playhouse,10886 Le Conte Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90024
Monday No performance
Tuesday - Friday 8:00 PM
Saturday 3:00 PM and 8:00 PM
Sunday 2:00 PM and 7:00 PM
The run of Barbecue will feature pre-show Signature Series events. These include Talk Back Tuesdays (Audience Q+A with artists), Girls Night Out, Lounge Fridays and Wine Down Sundays. Thanks to the support of Geffen Playhouse partners and sponsors, all elements of Signature Series evenings are complimentary as part of the ticket price.
Photos by Jeff Lorch Photography
Partying to welcome their wayward sister.