Tuesday, October 27, 2015

That Bachelorette Show @ The Copacabana

That Bachelorette Show is a highly entertaining 90 minute experience that takes you back to your glory days as you dance the night away with your girlfriends. Although, it is much more of an excuse to dress up, have some drinks, dance in a circle (in shoes that hurt after 10 minutes) and see some good looking men vying for your vote than it is is a piece of theater.

While you dance the night away at the famous Copacabana, you meet our bachelorette, Adriana Orlando, your typical gum smacking stereotype from Long Island, who has just broken up with her boyfriend, Giovanni Giovanni.  They have been together for 23 years, having apparently met on the playground. When their most recent anniversary ended in Giovanni going to “AC with the boyz”, Adriana finally called it off.  She decides to be a contestant on the show in order to find her forever husband with the help of the 200 plus women in the audience.  We learn all of this in the first 10 minutes and that is about as much talking as the show has throughout the night.

During the pre-show the guys are already out on the dance floor, chatting up the ladies. Once it begins, we are introduced to the 10 contestants.  They are a mix of race, wealth, intelligence and even, gender. Each are a very clear-cut archetype of what women apparently think are the ideal man. You meet the dumb but sexy surfer dude, the successful hedge fund banker, an Indian prince, a cardiologist, an English rocker, the awkward nerd (complete with fanny pack) and so on.
You are instructed to use your cell phones to vote by logging onto their live site and choosing your favorite so that can make it to the next round. The music begins and the cast heads out into the crowd trying to win your vote by chatting you up, dancing with you and in the case of the highly inebriated  (and desperate) lady, grind up on you to the point where I'm surprised there isn't a weekly medical exam for the actors. After about 10 minutes or so, the guys are called back up on stage and the results are tallied.  This happens about 3 times until there are only 2 contestants left.  

Although, the technology they use for the live voting is actually really impressive, the problem I had was that you didn’t get to learn anything about these guys unless you sought them out.  It really then became a competition of looks or what quality the women deemed was the most important when looking for a husband.  While most audience members weren’t looking for a full on spectacle, I was hoping to learn more about these characters through scripted events throughout the night.  The possibility was there, as Giovanni makes an attempt to woo Adriana by signing up as one of the contestants, but the conflict never came.  There was no attempt made by any of the guys to woo Adriana, instead they were sent out on the dance floor to woo you.  Kudos goes to the gentlemen however, as they spend the entire night holding conversations as their characters with women who can hardly string two words together.  

Overall, the show is a great excuse to have a great time.  Even if you have no interest in the actual show, the DJs, Andrew Andrew, keep you pumped to classic 80s, 90s and 00s hits.  It is highly recommended for the precursor to your bachelorette party and you can easily head upstairs to the dance floor when it is done to continue dancing until your heart’s content (admission is included in your ticket).  That Bachelorette Show is currently running open-ended on Saturday nights only.

Review By: Renee Demaio
Photos By: Jeremy Daniel

Saturday, October 24, 2015

*mark @ The Sheen Center

*mark: a trip to Sunday school.

Set in a blackbox theater, this one person straight play attempted to reenact key passages in the New Testament. Beginning with a red/blue police light with George Drance entering and somewhat hiding from the police, the audience was brought along his one-person journey in the beginnings of A.C. times. The entire play was conceived and performed by Drance and is named *mark to evoke a question: how has the Gospel left its mark on you? The play is inspired by Pope Francis’ “The Joy of the Gospel.”

Reciting the Bible almost verbatim, Drance also used the floor and walls to draw pictures of Jesus’ journey and parables with chalk he had in a zip up hoodie he wore. The stage itself had bags of garbage, a lamp and coffee table nearby in an attempt to set the scene of a modern day alleyway. Drance used the coffee table and a bucket as props and would periodically check his “ancient” cell phone for messages that were never shared with the audience.

Drance did not preach and did convey the New Testament with a level of his own flair, however, I believe he wanted to stay very true to the words of the Bible and allow them to speak for themselves. This resulted in the performance feeling like a lecture you would find at CCD or other Sunday School with some laymen’s terms sporadically making the audience giggle.

Director Luann Jennings and George Drance produced a Biblical play and kept it very Biblical. If you are very religious I would suggest attending. However, if you are looking for an eye-catching play about Jesus and his vast journeys before he was crucified you will be disappointed.

Review By: Alexandra Lipari

Friday, October 23, 2015

Who’s Your Baghdaddy? Or How I Started the Iraq War @ The Actor’s Temple

I typically do not read reviews or director’s notes before I see a show of any kind. I want to have an unadulterated opinion of what I see and hear- my own experience. Ironically, I happened to see “Who’s Your Baghdaddy? Or How I Started the Iraq War” with two people I have done civil disobedience activism with for several years. None of us had any idea what to expect. I was simply told that the play is offensive. Well it’s about fucking time! Thank you Charlie Fink and Lee Seymour for adapting the screenplay by J.T. Allen and his gutsy and creative approach to the human errors that were at the root of a now fourteen year long war that has displaced millions of people with hundreds of thousands dead. Humans. Who cares within what arbitrary lines these people were born, they are human beings. Or they were. I mention the director’s review because, in this case, the note inside the playbill from Mr. Fink is spot-on in his criticism of how “we” got into this mess, intimating that there is culpability and responsibility by all of us to heal the world from the destruction we have caused.
Of the dozens of Broadway and Off-Broadway shows I’ve seen, this was one of my favorites. From the moment I walked into the Actor’s Temple Theatre, I was greeted by the sweetest doorman and theatre manager. The actors served wine and donuts to audience members as though we were guests, freeing us all up from any stuffiness so we could relax into their fun and amusement. It worked for me…I twirled back from the loo…and I am shy with an audience. But the eight actors disrupted any pretense of formality, so our voyeurism into their “group” therapy was transformed into a shared experience.
With the self-indulgent mantra “We deserve better” that has become embedded in the American narrative, the cast, made up of Brennan Caldwell, Jason Collins, Bob D’Haene, Brandon Espinoza, Nehal Joshi, Olli Haaskivi, Claire Neumann, and Larisa Oleynik gives a sardonic portrayal of the events brought about by a succession of wrong decisions made, not by governments, but by people, which led to the invasion of Iraq and subsequent devastation to millions of people. People’s whose lives were destroyed- the collateral damage of hubris and conceit run amok. Thank-you for engaging me with your singing and dancing while you carried me along the journey of selfishness that gave rise to self-loathing- not the self-satisfaction and praise sought after by each player.
Directed by Marshall Pailet, who also did the music and with lyrics by A.D. Penedo, this play, really should be performed in schools as a warning against unchecked ambition and the role of personal accountability; and in churches where worshipers have sadly foregone grace to pledge allegiance to their new god, the State, which has instilled within us all a fear of our fellow man. Yes, humor is often the best way to impart a difficult lesson that requires we look at ourselves. I really wish there had been a Q & A afterward in order to hear if and how others were impacted. As for my friends and I, we were moved and reinvigorated to be more humble and gracious and will think twice before acting on that lie we’ve accepted as a truism: We deserve better…even if it’s at the expense of others.
You can catch this must-see show at The Actor’s Temple on W 47th through November 22nd.  Although perfectly acceptable for all ages, I suggest over sixteen. It is quite a heady show. Definitely get dinner or dessert afterward and discuss and chew on how you can repair the world. If a succession of decisions can bring about devastation, change can and does begin with just one and we can end the trend together, one thought and choice at-a-time.

Review By: Michele Seven
Photos By: Jeremy Daniels

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Trip of Love @ Stage 42

A Trip of Love takes a new twist to a classic jukebox musical. For one it is a dance musical that means NO DIALOGUE.  Honestly I was a little hesitant seeing this production, I am not a huge jukebox musical fan, nor am I a dancer. But I was proven wrong by the entire cast and creative team.

As you enter Stage 42 you are automatically transformed into the 1960’s. The entire theatre is covered in flowers, butterflies, and hearts. The stage looks like a whimsical wonderland, which is fitting because the opening number and almost the entire plot have themes of Alice in Wonderland.  We follow Caroline, portrayed by Kelly Felthous, and her quest to find love. On her adventure we find other vibrant characters that help her along the way as well as finding love of their own.

This entire show is spectacle. The set has so many fun pieces from, a giant mushroom, swings, huge surfboards, and a hot air balloon! The lighting was
trippin (get it). So many fun colors and spotlights, it made you feel like you were at a rock concert. Now, my favorite part of the show, the costumes! The 60’s and 70’s wardrobe was amazing!

Act one took place in the 60’s, that being said everything was light hearted and fun. I found myself smiling the entire time and wanting to sing along.  Act two however took a dark turn. It took place in the 70’s and brought up the war and recruitment. We see how war affected the lives of the loved ones left behind as well as the solders fighting. We find ourselves back to the beginning, like we took one huge trip.

Laurie Wells does a fantastic job grounding the show; she has a power belt that is to die for! Dionne Figgins has a stage presence that is so wonderful I could not take my eyes off her. David Elder brought a great comedic charm to the show, and plays a great stud that it was hard not to love him.  And Kelly Felthous does a fantastic job carrying the show and telling this story through dance, and what a voice she has. The entire ensemble is filled with amazing talent. The choreography was to die for! A stand out number was, wipeout! The use of the set was creative with layers of waves making the dance both above and under water.

Overall this show was a lot of fun. If you enjoy hit songs from the 60’s and 70’s this is the show for you. If you enjoy some good ole musical theatre magic this show is for you. If you enjoy amazing dancing and story telling this show is for you. If you want to see a show that will make you laugh, smile, and maybe even cry, head over to stage 42 and see Trip of Love. It will be a magical trip.

Review By: Briana Burnside
Photos By: Getty Images

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Boogie Stomp @ The Electra Theater

Boogie Stomp claims it is a two hour musical adventure of past and present piano masters who shaped the music of today.  Written by John Campana, this show promises an exciting, “get-up-and-dance” experience, while taking an historical and academic tour of American music.  While it is certainly exciting and dance-worthy, the show fails to deliver any sort of lasting knowledge and instead feels more like a college course fused with an episode of VH1’s Behind The Music.

The show begins with the highly talented pianists, Bob Baldori and Arthur Migliazza, taking the stage at the Elektra Theater in front of their grand pianos with their backs to the audience.  We are immediately entertained with their incredibly advanced musical skills and the promise of a good time begins to glint on the horizon until, they stop playing.   The show becomes a weird mix of their long list of (albeit, impressive) musical venues they’ve sold out at or the stars they have played with during their careers and what sounds like a poorly planned final thesis presentation.  We are told we are going to learn about how boogie, jazz and the blues paved the way for music today and are even given three points in which it all breaks down into; however, this lesson doesn’t occur.  The attempt is made to infuse education into the show by use of projections and informational monologues, but is blended with anecdotes of Mr. Baldori’s experience with Chuck Berry and the weird sexual tension that comes from Mr. Migliazza’s attempt to woo the cougars in the audience by asking them for rent money and sharing his Tinder profile.

Overall, there is certainly no shortage of talent with these gentlemen.  You definitely want to get up and dance with a lot of their music.  You want to participate, hoot, holler and bark (yes, bark) but sitting in the dark in the back of the house you are immediately removed from their set.  You want to be at a pub table with a drink in hand and lowered inhibitions; unfortunately, the seating at the Elektra Theater just does not lend itself to this.  

If you are looking for exciting piano players and impressive harmonica skills, come out to the show; on the other hand, you can probably find a little hole in the wall bar on the L.E.S. with talented pianists and use the money you saved on tickets prices to buy another round of drinks.

Review By: Renee Demaio

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Catch the Butcher @ The Cherry Lane Theater

A serial killer is stalking the streets of Texas. He’s already kidnapped and killed eleven women. And in the first 5 minutes of Catch the Butcher, Bill (Jonathan Walker) kidnaps Nancy (Lauren Luna Vélez) to make his kill list an even dozen. But the tables have turned: Nancy wanted to be kidnapped. Thus starts a hilarious dark comedy full of twists and turns.
The script itself, written by Adam Seidel, is a seriously dark comedy that could easily devolve into something plodding and dark or silly and nonsensical. The show delightfully straddles that line. Laughs come easily, particularly after the story gets rolling. One of the main themes seems to be a play on Stockholm Syndrome, and in this case, that concept gets flipped on its head with Nancy the “victim” winning her captor over and eventually putting herself completely in charge.
Most of the show is a two hander between Walker and Vélez. They have an easy chemistry with one another, elevating the slightly stilted beginnings between Bill and Nancy that develops into an almost childish romance that quickly shifts to a battle of wills. It’s a wide range of relationships to be sure, but Walker and Vélez combat each shift with ease and a wholeheartedness that just makes you want to grin. Credit should also be given to director Valentina Fratti for guiding and navigating the scenes in interesting ways. Some of the twists I didn’t see coming, including one surprising turn involving a fork, and it’s a combination of both the actors and the director that keep things interesting and non-predictable.
A fun interlude to the isolation of Bill and Nancy is the uproariously colorful Joanne (Angelina Fiordellisi). Joanne bursts in the last 3rd of the play and brings a ton of fun and comedy and joy to the proceedings, keeping things from becoming seriously grim and unwittingly pushing Nancy to turn the tables on Bill and move things towards the finale. Fiordellisi has an amazing amount of punch and vigor that was a refreshing change onstage. Both Nancy and Bill have an undercurrent of calm running through them, and Joanne disrupts that in the best way.
The design elements and theater itself bring a great intimacy and immediacy to the action going onstage. The theater is small and intimate, so you can see every detail. The scenic design by Lauren Helpern places you right in the spaces with cool and dark detail, aided by the mix of shadows and light created by lighting designer Graham Kindred. Costume designer Brooke Cohen helps navigate the different scene tones with her full color palette of costumes.
If you’re looking to laugh at some great dark humor, look no further than Catch the Butcher. It will be playing at the Cherry Lane Theatre at 38 Commerce Street through October 30th.

Review By: Chrissy Cody
Photos By: Carol Rosegg

Clever Little Lies @ The Westside Theater (Upstairs)

Congratulations to the cast and crew of Clever Little Lies which opened October 12th at the Westside Theatre, and will be running through January 3rd. Both witty and poignant, two-time Tony Award winner, Joe DiPietro, succeeds in delivering a script, using the two-couple ensemble, reminiscent of 60’s sitcoms that audience members find uproariously entertaining. I do wonder, however, whether anyone noticed that the semi-misogynistic teasing of female frailties common to those beloved shows was replaced by the celebration of self-empowered women at the expense of their pusillanimous husbands.
Charming Marlo Thomas, wife of Phil Donahue and best known as creator and star of TV show That Girl, was spot-on as the strategizing and manipulative mother archetype who, despite her claim that all her meddling is for family, is completely self-serving. Did her character go to sleep that fateful night certain that her ends justified the means? I hope not. Throwing her relationship to doting husband, Bill Sr, played by Greg Mullavey, under the bus as penance for her own infidelity was a heart-breaking thing to watch. I felt so bad for him that I nearly jumped on stage to join in a sympathetic nightcap. Obviously, I was pulled in by this show and the persuasive talents!

Director, David Saint was so clever to use, in the opening scene, a heated discussion between Bill Sr and son Billy, played by George Merrick, Honeymoon in Las Vegas (Broadway), so that we audience members could watch the emasculating devolution of this man, who served as a rock for his spoiled wife and entitled son, for whom enough was never enough. Bill Sr is critical of the American milieu which he claims is embedded by design in the Declaration of Independence: “We’ve been promised happiness, so we’re chasing it all the time.” Not quite the perspective we hear promulgated by the declarants of “The American Dream”.
Darling, daughter-in-law Jane, played by Kate Wetherhead, who originated the role in 2013, is so successfully, superficially, supine we barely notice that she has yanked her husband here, then there with her demands and incessant whining about her ever-changing wants and needs. Her character alas redeems herself when she admits that she’s not been showing her “shiny side” and thankfully takes some responsibility in the marriage hiccup that has caused this showdown.
These were such difficult and challenging topics for what is written and performed as a comedy. The four actors were fantastic together and the comedic timing was brilliant. This could have easily been billed as a tragedy, which it is, and they would have knocked that out of the park as well. I was suitably entertained during the show and even days later, I am still reflecting on the nuance of the stories that are unfortunately common to us all, as we, as they, fumble along, screwing up constantly even while trying to do the right thing for ourselves and our loved ones.

Review By: Michele Seven
Photos By: Sara Krulwich

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

The Gin Game @ The Golden Theater

D.L. Coburns play The Gin Game is story of never giving up. The wonderfully stoic James Earl Jones as Weller Martin opposite the great Cicely Tyson as Fonsia Dorsey provides the audience with enough chemistry that the room may have exploded. Champion Casting hit a gold mine with these two actors, and they were  enough to have the audience on their feet at the beginning of play. However, these two actors truly earn their early applause. Leonard Foglia directs these two to the moon and back.

Set in an old folkshome, two elderly characters find themselves alone on their visitors day again and again. Weller sees Fonsia, sitting alone and offers, or should I say, demands that she play gin with him. Throughout the many games of gin the two entail, we learn that Weller and Fonsia were both looking for some answers as to how they ended up in this low-end elderly facility, and with no visitors to boot. The audience is gifted time and time again with winsome witticisms delivered impeccably by James Earl Jones, and the captivating comedic timing of Cicely Tyson. Their characters wistfully take turns calling each other out before their time on this Earth is up. Its up to Weller and Fonsia to help each other learn that they only have themselves to blame for the way things turned out.

Truthfully, The Gin Game could be set with James Earl Jones and Cicely Tyson performing on an empty black stage, and the play still would be a smash. However, by the graces of set designer Riccardo Hernandez, the audience is enriched with an alluring set that transforms the Golden Theatre into the backyard porch of an old rural farmhouse. There are piles of useless items on the back porch, which give Weller many entertaining places to lose his gin rummy scorekeeping sheet. The set design reiterates from the dialogue of the play, that there is more to life than all of the material things you collect in your life. Those objects mean nothing without you there to describe them and eventually those materials will end up abandoned at the bottom of someone elses junk pile. Ricardo Hernandez helps deliver that  message with his beautifully intricate set design, which even includes the rain of a Summer afternoon thunderstorm glistening off the porch roof (illuminated beautifully by Lighting Designers: Peggy Eisenhower and Jules Fisher). It feels like a place weve all visited before, and sets the mood for reflection while mirroring the many people inside the home left behind by their loved ones.

The set may stay the same through both acts, but the stage management and crew deliver seamless costume changes throughout the play and deserve to be commended. Each day that Fonsia grows fonder of Weller, so do her adorable costumes.

The only complaint was that the audio was too loud at moments of the play, and it takes away from the importance of the lines. Tyson's voice is very soft and delicate compared to the booming voice of Darth Vader and Mufasa. Other than that one small detail, the play is phenomenal. The cast and crew give us an endearing journey into the lives of two beautiful characters who teach us that you are never too old to stop living your life. Now go visit your parents and grandparents, hug them, and thank them by taking them to see The Gin Game at the Golden Theatre!
Review By: Kira Redzneck
Photos By: Joan Marcus

Hard Love @ The Beckett Theatre @ Theater Row

Written by Israeli playwright Motti Lerner, Hard Love, is an eye opening peek into the lives of a culture many of us have not had the chance to understand. Director Scott Alan Evans and The Actors Company Theatre(TACT) respectfully took the audience of the Beckett Theatre on an emotional journey filled with relentless passion and controversy.

The play begins 20 years after the divorce of childhood sweethearts, Hannah and Zvi. Reuniting becomes necessary when they discover that their children, from each of their second marriages, have fallen in love.The romantic connection of their two children however, is promptly overshadowed by a lot of unfinished business between Hannah and Zvi.

Right from the beginning, the play took the form of one giant, resounding argument. Many of the scenes felt awkward and rushed. In the beginning of the play there was a lack of chemistry on stage. However, Victoria Mack’s portrayal of Hannah brought the scenes back to a nice flow throughout the play. The passion thankfully amplified between Hannah and Zvi as they became more comfortable with one another, they allowed Lerner's writing style to shine. Lerner flawlessly adds a new detail in each piece of dialogue, adding a new twist to intensify the connection between the  two characters. Throughout the constant loud moments, there were a lot of beautiful quiet moments delicately delivered between both Victoria Mack and Ian Kahn. Their abilities really shown in the less violent moments of the play. It gave time for the audience to to get a much needed breath, and let the affinity Hannah and Zvi have for one another be the focus.

The scenic design by John McDermott was perfect. One act took place in Hannah’s simple, neat, and humble apartment in the Me’a She’arim district. The only thing that really decorated the room was a bowl of brightly lit apples, which we later learn connect to Zvi. The other act takes place in a drastically different apartment in the heart of Tel Aviv. The apartment is full of clutter and mess, clearly depicting the mind of a confused writer. People say
that you can learn a lot about a person by looking at how they keep their nest. McDermott seamlessly delivered that in his portrayal of Hannah and Zvi’s homes.

            Hard Love is a unique story and worth the trek to the intimate Beckett Theatre at Theatre Row. The show runs approximately 90 minutes with a ten minute intermission. Hard Love closes Halloween Night so be sure to get your tickets soon.

Review By: Kira Redzneck
Photos By: Clack Kim

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Perfect Arrangement @ The Duke on 42nd Street

 Perfection is the only word that can describe Primary Stages’ Perfect Arrangement.  Somehow, a show set in the 1950s is fun, contemporary and completely relevant to today.  Topher Payne’s script engages, makes you laugh, and also cry, as you follow the lives of Bob and Norma and their seemingly perfect marriages.

Robert Eli (Bob) and Julia Coffey (Norma) play two U.S. State Department officials during the Red Scare, who are tasked with removing anyone from their ranks who is considered a “threat” to the U.S. government, ie: anyone practicing lewd behavior, sluts and homosexuals.  The catch? Bob and Norma are both gay who are living next door to one another in sham marriages.  During times when guests visit, it appears that Bob and his wife, Mikaela Feely-Lehmann (Millie), and Norma and her husband, Christopher J. Hanke (Jim), have ideal marriages, when in reality the couples are Millie and Norma and Jim and Bob who cross back and forth between the two houses seamlessly through a secret door hidden in their closet.  This provides a lot of room for hilarity as they constantly have to think quickly when someone asks about their supposed spouses’ whereabouts. 

The watershed moment comes when we meet the sexually adventurous, U.S. State Department translator, Barbara Grant, (Kelly McAndrew), and learn she is someone from Millie's past who knows about her all too well.  We see the families blackmailed; the worry of Bob and Norma’s boss, Mr. Sunderson (Kevin O’Rouke), who’s main argument for starting this crusade now coming to a sharp reality.  The lines get drawn once again as we see the dynamic between the societal advantages of men and women during the 50s come into focus.  The two couples come up with separate plans to stifle this blackmailer which only leads to more trouble and eventual destruction of everything they worked so hard to achieve.  

This show keeps you laughing until suddenly, you’re crying.  You start to scream silently in your head as their “perfect arrangement” becomes unraveled and the only thing you can do is stand by and watch.  The entire cast does a wonderful job of pulling you in and making themselves a part of your lives.  You leave, forever changed, viewing the world today just a bit differently than you did before.  

The Duke on 42nd Street is an intimate black-box theater that has been transformed by Neil Patel into a beautiful stereotypical 1950’s home that reminds you just a bit too well of the room in your grandmother’s house where you couldn’t touch anything.  The hair and wig design by J. Jared Janas and costumes, by Jennifer Caprio, add the touch of authenticity this play calls for.  Kudos to the entire company and crew for a show that is nothing short of excellence.  Perfect Arrangement runs for a limited engagement through November 6th so get your tickets today before it’s too late. 

Review By: Renee Demaio
Photo By: James Leynse

Friday, October 9, 2015

Barbecue @ The Public Theater

Barbecue. A welcome intervention.

Barbecue, written and hilariously introduced by Robert O’Hara was an utterly unique and thought provoking look into stereotypes, similarities and racial identities. Receiving its debut at the Public Theater, Barbecue was a real treat.

Jason Lyons and Clint Ramos brought terrific lighting and a masterfully colored stage to life, bringing the audience into a picnic/barbecue setting in a lusciously green forest. Paul Tazewell hit every cultural note with his costume design and Director Kent Gash, Artistic Director Oskar Eustis and Executive Director Patrick Willingham found a way to emulate O’Hara’s conveyance of the striking similarities between inner city black and trailer park white trash families with a severe plot twist in the middle.

Allow me to explain without giving away too much. Barbecue is a play about a family, the O’Mallerys, that is trying to stage an intervention for their “crack head ho” sister, Barbara or as they prefer to call her: Zippity Boom and just how far that story goes.

Barbara (Tamberla Perry and Samantha Soule) is the tail-end of any memory regarding a jail cell, running from the police, working a corner—she has gotten to a level in her life where her family, particularly her sister Lillie Ann, cannot handle. The caveat: both a black family and white family are performing the exact same story but with their own cultural twang, complete with “The Nae-Nae” graciously performed by the white family.  

Both Tamberla Perry and Samantha Soule took a character with generally un-relatable characteristics and made her relatable to almost any family at large. I found that I put Barbara right in with the “crazies” in my family quite easily and the rest of the O’Mallery family were no exception.

Opening the play was James T. (Marc Damon Johnson and Paul Niebanck), the sole brother of the family and not without his own problems. “Addicted” to weed and alcohol, James T. is upset about trying to convince Zippity Boom to do anything as she is volatile and dangerous. Johnson and Niebanck both allow James T. to culminate into the ever-concerned but wary of showing it brother.

Beginning the setup of the barbecue was Lillie Ann (Becky Ann Baker and Kim Wayans). Lillie Ann is the sister that has chosen to overcompensate for her family’s drug and alcohol addicted madness. Both Baker and Wayans brought to life a character that will stop at nothing to get her family back on track and the twist at the second act is worth a watch!

Her other two sisters, Adlean (Constance Shulman and Benja Kay Thomas) and Marie (Arden Myrin and Heather Alicia Simms) both added to the ruse-filled barbecue. Adlean, wrought with cancer and addicted to pain pills becomes the brother or sister that has fallen into our overwrought medical system. Both Shulman and Thomas were hilarious to watch bring so many stereotypes to life.

Marie was the sister that judges others but somehow finds herself under the radar of being judged. Also “recreationally addicted” to crack and quite the alcoholic, Marie tries to escape her own intervention by participating in Barbara’s. Yet again, Myrin and Simms made Marie that weird aunt that believes that canned corn causes cancer and that the Middle East is responsible for all of our problems.

Steppenwolf Theater Company did not miss a beat in commissioning Barbecue’s world premier. Not every family has these levels of issues and obstacles but this stereotypical and analytical look into the lives of two culturally dichotomous families in a side-by-side way is a look into the American Family and its values. If for nothing else, see the play for an evening of laughter and a real look at what the line between cultures is.

Review By: Alexandra Lipari
Photos By: Joan Marcus