Barbecue – A Centre Stage Production

Now, as a foreigner, this writer is still very confused as to how and why Americans like to spell barbeque like barbecue, but he will put up with it for the remainder of this article. Considering Barbecue, a play by Robert O’Hara, hilariously focuses and criticizes the quintessential media-darling family of the USA, I’m sure he can briefly turn that ‘q’ into a ‘c’.

‘I’d like for them to choke… I don’t want them to easily digest the play and then go home and forget it… I want audiences to laugh until they choke. That’s satire,’ notes Steve H. Broadnax III, the director of CentreStage’s Barbecue, in an interview with This Stage Magazine. The satirical play does just that, centering on analogous stories of black and white American families, each an archetypal demonstration of their cultural stereotypes. They’re different people, with the same struggles: a broken family, a disabling hypocrisy, and a few crack addictions.

Over the olive branch of a barbecue party, siblings James T, Lillie Anne, Adlean and Marie (the same names are used for both families) try to coax their drug-addicted sister, Barbara, into signing up for Alaskan rehab. The only issue is, of course, that many of the family members could probably do with rehab themselves. Through taser attacks and all, each family comes together to a head when they confront their issues, all in front of the audience.

And therein lies O’Hara’s point: why are we such voyeurs? The play’s second act is a sharp rebuke of its first, all cold Hollywood reality in opposition to the emotional beginning. The audience is forced to question their emotional investment in the characters; really in media at all!

Held at the Pavilion Theatre from 21 March through April 1, CentreStage’s season of Robert O’Hara’s Barbecue was a powerful one. Featuring stunning performances from a selection of talented M.F.A. students, professionals and theater majors, O’Hara’s play was done great justice. Zudhi Boueri, Johnique Mitchell and Katie Nixon, in particular, found just the right balance between hilarious satire and sobering reality. Laughs were abundant, but so was ‘choking,’ as Broadnax would say.

Students wanting to experience more work through CentreStage can look to Craig Lucas’ The Light in the Piazza, which will be performed at the Downtown Theatre Centre, between April 4 – 15. Tickets are $25, or $12.50 for students with ID. There is also a $20 matinee, while opening night is $30.

Photo credit: Patrick Mansell