Regional Reviews: San Francisco/North Bay
in a public park, the foul-mouthed O'Malley family is staging an intervention for their drug-addicted sister Barbara (Susi Damilano) with a barbeque. They dub the sister Zippity Boom. The second scene opens in the same public park on the same set with an African-American family dressed in the same outfits and exhibiting the exact same problems as the original white family. Before Zippity (Margo Hall) shows up, the family has fierce arguments among themselves, drinking the same whiskey and beer and popping their prescription pills.
The second act of Barbecue is difficult to explain in detail without giving away the many surprises. All I've got to say is that Margo Hall rocks as a "black movie star" dressed in expensive attire (courtesy of Brook Jennings) and sporting an intonation that fluctuates between a British and American dialect. Susi Damilano underplays the role in the first act.
The first James T (Clive Worsley) says at the beginning of play, "We ain't no normal gatdamn family and we ain't never been no normal gatdamn family ... but all of a sudden y'all read a book or see a TV show and y'all wanna gather up and act like we're a normal gatdam family." The playwright's decision to make a black family represent the white family's skirmishes throughout the play in inventive.
Barbecue's cast is awesome. Susi Damilano and Margo Hall as Barbara, also known Zippity Boom, are outstanding. In the second act the focus is primarily on these two characters. Margo Hall's direction of this wild play is absolutely fantastic. The white cast, consisting of Jennie Brick as Adlean, Anne Darragh as Lillie Anne, Teri Whipple as Marie, and Clive Worsley as James T, and the black cast, consisting Edris Cooper-Anifowoshe as Adlean, Halili Knox as Lillie Anne, Kehinde Koyejo as Marie, and Adrian Roberts as James T, give brilliant performances.
Bill English has designed a detailed public park set with trees on the left side of stage and beat-up picnic tables.
There was a lot talking of "what's going to happen next" at intermission. Barbecue is a dazzling play that surpasses common misapprehensions of race and ingeniously highlights America's slanted media depictions of families. Margo Hall direction is sharp and she brings out of the best in cast.
Barbecue runs through November 11, 2017, at San Francisco Playhouse,450 Post Street, San Francisco, 2nd floor of the Kensington Park Hotel. For tickets and information, call 415-677-9596 or visit www.sfplayhouse.org. Coming up next is Joseph Robinette, Benj Pasek and Justin Paul's A Christmas Story: The Musical running November 22 through January 18, 2018.