The off-Broadway theater company Playwrights Horizons kicks off its new season with a show called "Bootycandy.” David Cote of Time Out New York filed the following report for NY1.
“Raw” “nasty” and “outrageous” are not adjectives I usually roll out for Playwrights Horizons, but then, the fine company doesn’t always put on shows like “Bootycandy.” Written and directed by Robert O’Hara, “Bootycandy” is a raucous and even raunchy coming-of-age satire about a young, gay black man and the grotesque world around him.
Told in an episodic structure that surfs over genres and turns in on itself in metatheatrical ways, “Bootycandy” – and yes, that title is a euphemism – is the sort of transgressive material that keeps you on your toes. There’s lots of camp and biting humor for fans of, say, “The Boondocks” or Dave Chappelle. A gospel preacher played by Lance Coadie Williams reveals a secret life to his congregation; a family scene plays like a sketch from In Living Color rewritten by Ionesco. It’s not all laughs – scenes go from goofy to gruesome in minutes. Or O’Hara turns the tables and convenes a playwright talk-back.
The design of the show, from Clint Ramos’s revolving set and funky costumes, to Japhy Weideman’s versatile lighting, follows the author’s shifts from urban noir to goofy sitcom with wit and precision. O'Hara's spiky writing is perfectly served by the excellent cast. In the second half, we focus more on the adult Sutter’s ambivalent relationship to white men, due to an early sexual experience with the father of a childhood friend. O’Hara is not peddling PC identity-politics or an easy moral here; Sutter, played by the angel-faced but coolly detached Phillip James Brannon, is sadistic, but also kind, such as in an extended final sequence between Sutter and his nursing-home grandmother.
It’s sweet, it’s sour, it’s a little bitter, a little organic, but also a bit chemical. “Bootycandy” sure tastes strange in your mouth.