Bawdy, Audacious ‘Bootycandy’ is Hilariously Provocative (4.5 Stars)
By Michele Markarian
‘Bootycandy’ – Written by Robert O’Hara. Directed by Summer L. Williams. Presented by Speakeasy Stage Company at the Stanford Calderwood Pavilion, 527 Tremont Street, Boston, through April 9.
You know you’re in for an unusual theatrical experience when, within the first five minutes of the play, a precocious, effeminate boy asks his young, single mom why she refers to his privates as “bootycandy”. “What the heck am I watching?” I thought, feeling like the uptight Bostonian that I am. But “Bootycandy” defies uptight; it is one of the funniest, most outrageous, yet thought provoking pieces you will see onstage this season.
“Bootycandy” is, for the most part, autobiographical to Robert O’Hara, the playwright, renamed Sutter in the piece. A series of seemingly unrelated sketches comprise the first act – a preacher lecturing a close-minded congregation; a mom to be and her friend arguing over the name of the unborn baby; two men, one gay, one straight, discussing whether or not to have an affair; a sad sack named Clint fending off a would-be mugger. Act One ends with a playwriting panel for black playwrights, moderated by a white male. This is when we realize that Sutter, played by the charismatic Maurice Emmanuel Parent, is the playwright, confronting his homosexuality, his family, his religion, and his race in unexpected, hilarious and moving ways.
Act Two continues with deeper revelations about the people we’ve been watching. Sutter’s mom has remarried, and as the teenaged Sutter tries to tell his family that there’s a man who’s been following him, his mom and stepdad react with suspicion – not at the fact that their son might be in danger, but that he may be bringing it on himself, with his love of show tunes and lack of sports. Clint, the sad sack, comes across Sutter and a friend in a bar and tells them he’d like to be humiliated. Sutter, for reasons of his own, complies in a way that has dire consequences. But the ending is sweet, with Sutter and his grandmother talking; and bitter, with a flashback of Sutter’s stalker and lots of humor in between.
In keeping with the play, Summer Williams’s direction is fast and loose. The cast is excellent. Maurice Emmanuel Parent, who just blew me away in “The Convert”, gives a nuanced performance as Sutter. The supporting cast, all playing multiple roles, show range and depth. Jackie Davis is marvelous in a number of roles, especially teenaged Sutter’s expressive mom, and the talented Tiffany Nichole Greene, as Adela, almost destroyed me when she uttered my favorite line in the play, “She naming her baby Pussy” (don’t ask). Johnny Lee Davenport shines as he moves from the spectacular Reverend Benson, to the butch, almost taciturn stepdad, then to the garrulous grandmother. John Kuntz, one of the funniest men on the Boston stage, brings gravity to his roles as both the troubled Roy and Clint.
Bootcandy is not for kids – despite the many laughs, it’s an adult play, with strong language and nudity. But by the time the Michael Jackson dance medley finale plays, you realize you want to go back and take the Bootycandy ride all over again. For more info, go to: http://www.speakeasystage.com/bootycandy/