Stage ‘Barbecue’ cooks up a saucy comedy at The Geffen

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The Geffen Playhouse kicks off its new season with the West Coast premiere of “Barbecue,” a new play by Robert O’Hara (”Bootycandy”). Act I opens in a picnic area where three sisters and their brother are setting up a barbeque. However, the real reason they have come together for this family picnic is to stage an intervention with their sister Barbara.(Rebecca Wisocky/ Cherise Boothe), who is addicted to drugs and booze. She is also one mean, nasty, devious sibling. In fact to be on the safe side...
MORE ISSUES WITH FAMILY—Dale Dickey, from left, Elyse Mirto, Frances Fisher and Travis Johns perform n the production of “Barbecue.” Credit: Jeff Lorch Photography.

The Geffen Playhouse kicks off its new season with the West Coast premiere of “Barbecue,” a new play by Robert O’Hara (”Bootycandy”).

Act I opens in a picnic area where three sisters and their brother are setting up a barbeque. However, the real reason they have come together for this family picnic is to stage an intervention with their sister Barbara.(Rebecca Wisocky/ Cherise Boothe), who is addicted to drugs and booze. She is also one mean, nasty, devious sibling.

The Geffen Playhouse kicks off its new season with the West Coast premiere of “Barbecue,” a new play by Robert O’Hara (”Bootycandy”).

Act I opens in a picnic area where three sisters and their brother are setting up a barbeque. However, the real reason they have come together for this family picnic is to stage an intervention with their sister Barbara.(Rebecca Wisocky/ Cherise Boothe), who is addicted to drugs and booze. She is also one mean, nasty, devious sibling.

In fact to be on the safe side, brother James T. (Omar J. Dorsey/Travis Johns) has come armed with a stun gun, just in case she attacks. And he uses it in one of the funniest scenes in the play. But his first target turns out to be their hard drinking younger sister, Marie -(Heather Alicia Simms/ Elyse Mirto). Another sister, Adlean (Kimberly Hebert Gregory/Dale Dickey) is a chain smoker with cancer, who pops her meds as if they were M&Ms. But when the time comes, will Barbara agree to be sent to Alaska for the cure. This far, far away location was chosen by elder sis Lillie Anne (Yvette Cason/ Frances Fisher), the most together being in this truly dysfunctional clan, because there is no way Barbara will be able to come home before she is rehabilitated.

Act I takes place in a park, somewhere in middle America—somewhere in the present. Act II begins before the action in Act I, and ends after everything that took place at the start and middle. If this sounds hard to follow, don’t worry because O’Hara brings everything together before we head to the glamorous and celebratory finale.

Now, back to the Act I barbecue. The first scene is performed by an all-white cast. After the blackout the story continues and everyone is black, then white, then black. Perhaps the color change throughout symbolizes the fact that addiction is more a matter of class and dysfunction than race. However it also makes perfect sense on another level that cannot be described without ruining all the surprises in the plot.

I wondered, before I sat down to write this, how I would explain the onstage shenanigans without being a spoiler because I have to confess, I was not sure why the cast kept shifting to black and white, even though each group represented just one truly messed-up family. But, believe it or not, it will all makes sense in the end.

Most of the big laughs are in Act I. In fact, one of the funniest lines belongs to Marie, who wanders around with the biggest booze bottle you’ve ever seen. Before Barbara shows up, elder sis Lillie Anne demands that Marie open up her purse which might be filled with illicit drugs. In reply Marie clutches her bag saying, “I don’t have to go do nothin’ but stay black and die.”

“Barbecue,” at the Geffen Playhouse, 10886 LeConte Ave., L.A. through Oct. 16. Running time 1 hour, 55 minutes. For information call 310-208-5454 or online at www.geffenplayhouse.org

 

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Coming Soon:  Oct. 11 to Nov. 20 at the Audrey Skirball Kenis Theater, at the Geffen Playhouse, is the stage production of “The Model Apartment,” a play by Donald Margulies. The play takes us back to an earlier work by Pulitzer Prize winner and Geffen Playhouse favorite, Donald Marguiles (“The Country House,” “Time Stands Still” and  “Dinner With Friends”).

In the story Max and Lola are retiring to Florida, desperately hoping to live out their golden years in relaxation and respite.

But the life they have left behind quickly comes calling, plunging their deluxe seaside condo into a nightmare tinged with the brutality of their past as we bear witness to a haunting family history.

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