“Barbecue” a Smokin’ Hit
Review by Bryna Chandler
Human Race Theatre Company starts the summer season with a smoking hit in Barbecue. Racially different families alternate in this hilarious comedy that could occur in any all-American park throughout the great U.S. of A. This saucy Barbecue is made with one part white trailer trash to one part black ghetto, add in a dash of intervention and quite a few lies, and then spice with some social commentary, drugs, and alcohol to create an unbelievably great production. Running Tuesday through Sunday till the end of April, Barbecue is a calamitous comedy by Robert O’Hara that explores addiction, family dynamics, and American reality- whatever that reality may be.
The Plot of Barbecue
The play opens with Josh Aaron McCabe as James T, the alcoholic middle-aged white man yakking away on the phone to his domineering yet well-meaning sister, Lillie Anne, played by Darlene Spencer. Here is where we catch the theme of the evening- an intervention for their out-of-control younger sibling, “Zippity Boom” Barbara. It is hard to imagine how badly out of control Zippity Boom has to be for this family to stage an intervention as the rest of the family shows up, including pill-popping Adlean, played by Lisa Stephen Friday, and Jim-Beam-drinking Marie played by Mierka Girten.
The family airs about every bit of dirty laundry one could imagine within the first 15-minutes of the play when unexpectedly, the lights go out, and a new family emerges in the same costumes, conditions, and setting… except they have gone from white to black. Without missing a beat, the new cast of actors picks up where the first family paused. The broken-down middle-aged white man that was James T is now played by Rico Romalus Parker, the overbearing control freak Burgess Byrd plays the older sister, Lillie Anne, Marva Williams-Parker takes over the role of Adlean and A.J. Baldwin grabs the jack as Marie.
The first act moves seamlessly back and forth from white family to black as they proceed with the intervention of “Zippity Boom” Barbara, played by Oluchi-Nwokocha and Erin Eva Butcher. Simultaneously uncomfortably, insightful and hilariously reflective, it is continually intriguing to see what happens next. Regardless if you view it as two different casts performing the same characters or as a singular ensemble, the cast of Human Race Theatre’s Barbecue is so in sync it made the entire production a sizzling success.
To set the scene for the perfect Barbecue, the Loft Theatre in downtown Dayton is transformed into a nameless public park by Set Designer Tamara L. Honesty. The costume design by L’Amour Ameer is insightful and slightly dreadful (in the best of ways) as they found a way to make the same items worn by the characters work culturally for both races. Pulling everything together is Director Eboni Bell Darcy, leading her first show at Human Race.
At the end of the intervention and the house lights go up, the audience is held in a momentary sense of wonder of what just happened….. and, like any good reality show, wanting more. No worries, it is merely the intermission, meaning it is a great time to grab a drink from the bar before the second act takes everything you just watched and blends it up with a little extra smoke!
In typical potluck fashion, Human Race Theatre’s production of Robert O’Hara’s Barbecue is very much like a seven-layer dip you might find at a summer family function. Each character is a tasty unique flavor, you are never quite sure what is in the next layer, and every last bit is delicious.
Tickets to Barbecue
Make room on your plate this summer for The Human Race Theatre Company’s Barbecue, playing at Dayton’s Loft Theatre Tuesday through Sunday until April 30th. Visit Human Race Theatre for more information and tickets. NOTE: Recommended for mature audiences only.
Bryna Chandler has a lifelong love for the stage, being raised in a theatrical family. She attended CCM as well as SIUE for design and dramaturgy. An amateur playwright her work has been performed in OH, CA, NV, and numerous fringe festivals. Her writing and design background led her to marketing, where she is currently the Digital Marketing & Communications Coordinator for the School of Business at UD.