note: entire contents copyright 2016 by Sheila Barth
“Bootycandy’s” title alone should give theatergoers a hint of what Robert O’Hara’s play is about. You don’t have to know the definition of bootycandy to figure out the show is racy. And you certainly don’t need to hearken to the pre-show media hype about its salty language, adult themes and - gasp!- nudity. Firstly, bootycandy doesn’t mean what you may think it does- and I don’t mean shake your booty. Bootycandy, according to O’Hara’s mother, means penis. His anecdote about his childhood reveals that within the first five minutes of the play. O’Hara also has no demands, no requirements, and no expectations for theatergoers about whether they’ll like it, walk out on it, or do precisely what he wants - sit back and let it happen, without trying to analyze it. O’Hara says he based the play’s vignettes partially on autobiographical experiences - the more sensational, unbelievable ones, in fact. Although his humor is tongue-in-cheek and satiric, he’s not kidding here.
Yes, we “older” theatergoers frown when specific scenes go too far over the edge, or when the language exceeds its shock factor. Some incidents are too bizarre to fathom, but we dutifully stay, until the very end. Why should we, if it offends our sensibility, or its sexuality is too flagrant?
Because of Summer Williams’ superlative direction and this entire cast’s incredible performance.
Not to be missed is Boston’s favorite award-winning actor Johnny Lee Davenport, portraying the Rev. Benson, a “progressive” minister, who goes to extraordinary lengths to drive home a “teachable” sermon. Tall, handsome, brawny Davenport is magnetic, standing at the pulpit, preaching like hell’s fury about some parishioners’ gossip-mongering, and their accusations of choir boys’ anti-church-like, homosexual behavior. Things don’t always seem the way they are, he intones, while donning a long, wavy female wig, glittery silver spike heels, then unzipping his priestly black robe to reveal his skin-tight, sparkly sheath dress underneath. These series of scenes seem unrelated, but circuitously tie together.
Portraying Sutter, the central character, Maurice Emmanuel Parent is dynamic, as he traces incidents during Sutter’s childhood, adolescence, and adulthood. O’Hara insists the story about telling his mother he was followed home by a man, after school, actually happened. In the play, his mother (Jackie Davis) insists he must’ve done something wrong to make that man follow him. so she insists he take up sports, not participate in the school’s musicals and drop theater classes. In another series two men, one white, the other African-American, discuss their attraction to and love for each other, even though they’re brothers-in-law. Then there’s the telephone game, with two ladies yukking it up, discussing a pregnant young woman who intends to name her daughter Genitalia. The phone wires were burning up that day! How about the poor white man, (fantastic John Kuntz) waiting for the bus, who talks his way out of being mugged, because he has nothing for his attackers to take? Later, two lesbians,Genitalia and Intifada (Tiffany Nichole Greene), end their relationship in an unloving ceremony.
There’s brutality, too, in a sordid theme about a white, depressed, alcoholic lost soul who propositions two black males to have sex with him. It ends badly - very badly. But there’s more.
Like rolling the dice and anticipating what happens, “Bootycandy” is a 2014 award-winning play that’s worth the gamble.
Or maybe not. At least, you won’t forget it.