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Washington DC by Susan Berlin

Bootycandy

Also see Susan's review of Don Quixote

Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company in Washington understood what it was doing when it selected Bootycandy to close its season—beginning with that title, which won't be defined here. Playwright and director Robert O'Hara has drawn upon his experiences growing up gay and African-American to create a series of hilarious, sometimes shocking vignettes that seem scattered at first but ultimately resolve into a sort of pattern.

The one character who figures in all the scenes, either directly or indirectly, is the author's stand-in, Sutter (Phillip James Brannon). The audience sees him first as a curly-haired young boy in a Superman T-shirt, trying to get straightforward answers about sex from his mother (Jessica Frances Dukes). In subsequent scenes, Sutter interacts with lovers, interviewers, and his outspoken grandmother (Lance Coadie Williams).

Interspersed with these scenes are other moments seen through Sutter's eyes: a charismatic preacher (Williams) takes on rumors of "deviant" young men in the church choir; four women (played in turn by Dukes and Laiona Michelle) gossip on the phone about how some words, no matter how pleasant they sound, just aren't appropriate as baby names; two lesbians, estranged from each other, attempt to resolve their problems with a formal ceremony. And, to add an extra level of complexity, in one scene the actors participate in a panel discussion of African-American theater led by a clueless white moderator (Sean Meehan); Sutter and the three others claim authorship of some of the previous sketches.

Director O'Hara understands exactly what playwright O'Hara wants to do with the material, which is to keep it bubbling and frequently outrageous. His five actors—especially the women, who are often unrecognizable from one scene to the next—understand that sometimes going too far is exactly what a play needs.

Tom Kamm's scenic design picks up on the playwright's exuberant theatricality with a glittering proscenium, a sharply raked stage that reflects the performers, a red curtain, and even a disco ball.

Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company
Bootycandy
May 30th - June 26th
Written and directed by Robert O'Hara
Actor 1: Jessica Frances Dukes
Actor 2: Phillip James Brannon
Actor 3: Laiona Michelle
Actor 4: Lance Coadie Williams
Actor 5: Sean Meehan
641 D St. N.W., Washington, DC
Ticket Information: 202-393-3939 or www.woollymammoth.net


-- Susan Berlin


Also see the Current Theatre Season Calendar for D.C.



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