Robert O’Hara’s play, being put on by Intiman, is a roller-coaster ride of sexual and racial identity, homophobia, hurt and rage, with a final pit stop for soul food.
“Bootycandy,” Robert O’Hara’s theatrical salvo about growing up gay and black, pulls no punches.
It opens with an explicit chat about male genitalia (hence the euphemistic title) between a curious African-American boy, Sutter, and his distracted mother. From there it’s a roller-coaster ride of sexual and racial identity, homophobia, hurt and rage, with a final pit stop for soul food.
The play’s bursts of outrageous, p.c.-smashing humor are staged with verve by Malika Oyetimein in Intiman Theatre’s local premiere, and bring to mind George C. Wolfe’s “The Colored Museum” — an earlier play tackling provocative themes and stereotypes in sketch-fest mode.
by Robert O’Hara. Through Oct. 3, Intiman Theatre at Cornish Playhouse, Seattle Center; tickets from $20 (206-315-5838 or intiman.org).
“Bootycandy” is a more personal, grittier, angrier kind of scrapbook. It’s also messier and uneven. But when it’s hot, it scorches.
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Set amid an attic’s worth of family junk, it is broadest (and funniest) in the peppery chatter of earthy black women, including Sutter’s tack-sharp, empathetic grandma. An uproarious bit with a flaunting, get-down preacher (remarkable Isaiah Johnson) is sheer vaudeville.
But the laughs pinch and ache when the adolescent Sutter (a nuanced Tyler Trerise) is verbally demolished by his disapproving parents for everything from his unmanly (meaning: gay) love of Broadway musicals, to the way he picks something off the floor.
Another gut punch: Sutter’s adult encounter in a bar with a pathetic white drunk demanding sex. It ends tragically, with a scathing epiphany of how internalized bigotry can turn a victim of abuse into an abuser.
A few scenes ramble, and targeting the idiocy of a clueless white academic spouting privileged nonsense at a panel on black playwriting is too easy.
But essentially, “Bootycandy” is a timely, multihued satire from a gutsy writer, executed with brio by a dexterous cast that also includes Angel Brice, Rebecca M. Davis and Chris Ensweiler.