Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Cleveland & Akron

Cleveland Public Theatre
Review by Review by Mark Horning

Also see David's review of Wait Until Dark and Mark's review of Repairing a Nation

The Cast
Photo by Steve Wagner Photography
Addictions come in a variety of disguises, with some being more evident than others. There are the big four of alcohol, drugs, sex and eating, along with more subtle varieties like money, power, work, racism, homophobia, and obsessive behavior. No matter what the addiction (be it big or small) it affects the social circle of family and friends. In effect, we all become "damaged goods" due to these unchecked desires.

This is the central theme of the current theatrical offering at Cleveland Public Theatre where Robert O'Hara's dark comedy Barbecue is being staged. Witnessing an O'Hara play (Antebellum and Bootycandy have also been produced locally) is like watching an untethered child or pet. It is nearly impossible to predict their route, but chances are there is some mischief on the way. In essence, the lines of reality are blurred.

The play begins with a white family (Family A) who has gathered at a picnic area in a public park to stage an intervention for their sister Barbara. It soon becomes apparent that this circle of dysfunctional like type DNA is more screwed up then their intended target. Marie is the sole "clean" member of the clan who battles her own "lust for control" demons. She has decided that it is time to send Barbara off to Alaska to a holistic rehab center that specializes in hypnosis, acupuncture, yoga, and equestrian partnering (much to the delight of the other family members).

The stage goes black and the scene continues with an all black cast (Family B) with the same names, introducing a feeling of commonality concerning dysfunctional families struggling with addictions. Tempers flare and brother James T breaks out his taser and demonstrates it on one of his siblings in order to calm her down as the clan awaits the arrival of the really screwed up one.

Each group takes turns enacting their scenes which continue the storyline up until the last few seconds of act one when a surprising reveal is made, setting up the second act which carries its own collection of surprises (including an Academy Awards show minus the faux pas). The dialog by O'Hara is biting and serves to unite the two groups rather than marginalize them.

Under the masterful direction of Beth Wood the cast brings levity to the very serious dilemmas of addiction and dysfunction. There are some truly laugh out loud moments. Kudos to actors Jill Levin and Katrice Monee Headd as Barbara, Teresa DeBerry and Tonya Broach as Lillie Anne, Ray McNiece and Scott A. Campbell as James T, Maryann Elder and Pamela Morton as Adlean, and Sally Groth and Ashley Aquilla as Marie.

Ryan T. Patterson has created an amazing set with a hill, grass picnic area (complete with wooden picnic table, park style charcoal grill, and street light), along with a background of chainlink fence and cattails. Inda Blatch-Geib has the paired actors in matching outfits and lighting designer Benjamin Gantose lights the stage with abundant brilliance.

This is an adult show, make no mistake about that. Between the language to the subject matter it is not suitable for children or those sensitive to such carryings-on.

Consider Barbecue a litmus test for the liberally minded. It is at the same time funny, shocking and revealing, but with a farcical ring to it. While presented in a serious vein, you cannot help but notice the tongue in cheek manner in which the story is carried through. It is CPT at its best.

Barbecue will be presented at the Gordon Square Theatre, 6415 Detroit Avenue in Cleveland, Ohio through March 11, 2017, with performances on Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Monday evenings at 7:30 p.m. Ticket prices range from $12 to $30 with students and seniors receiving $3 off for the Friday and Saturday evening shows. All Thursday and Monday tickets are $12. Tickets may be purchased online at www.cptonlineorg or by calling the CPT Box Office at (216) 631-2727 x501. Group discounts are available.

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