Sunday, September 17, 2017

Review of Strawdog Theatre Company's Barbecue at Steppenwolf's 1700 Theatre

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called Barbecue. It was by Robert O'Hara and it was directed by Damon Kiely. It was about a family that gets together for a Barbecue-vention for their sister Barbara (Abby Pierce/Ginneh Thomas). It is about family, addiction, betrayal, and about things not being what they seem. I won't be able to say a lot of details about this show because there are so many plot twists I don't want to give away. I'm going to try to talk generally enough so that when you have seen the show, you will understand. I thought this was a really good show; the script was really crazy and well-written and the acting was great. I really liked it.

This is a very strange show. It plays with your mind a lot and makes you think things are real that are not and vice versa. Each character is played by two different actors. James T, the brother, is played by John Henry Roberts and Terence Sims; Lillie Anne, the sister who organized the intervention, is played by Barbara Figgins and Deanna Reed-Foster; Adlean, the sister who always seemed to be smoking, is played by Kristin Collins and Kamille Dawkins; and Marie, the opinionated, slightly shady, whisky-drinking sister is played by Celeste M. Cooper and Anita Deely. It makes me think about how the same story for two different groups of people can be so different, and not just because they were played by different people but because of what was revealed about them throughout the show. One of the stories kind of just ended and you don't get to see how it turns out but the other one is finished and you get to see a big reveal as to why we were switching back and forth. It made me think about the differences between a story and real life and the story of a story. I thought it was cool how they addressed issues of race and class in ways I never thought about or expected.

This play is about how addiction can mess up not only you but also your family and the people around you. It is about how you have to be thinking about your actions not just for yourself but for the people around you. Addiction doesn't look the same for everyone. It is always because they feel like they need the comfort of whatever it is, but they feel like they need it for different reasons. Sometimes it is because they are depressed; sometimes they feel like they have to replace something with a substance. Sometimes it is because they are stressed or feel a lot of pressure. Sometimes it is because they feel like they can't be who they really are. We hold on to things as if they were people, and try to distract ourselves from what is really going on in the world because it is hard because people can hurt you. That doesn't mean that drugs and alcohol can't hurt you too. Addiction is always at the center and the source of everyone's problems in this play. I think that makes for some very interesting storytelling for there not to be a villain that is human, but for there to be a villain that is an actual problem in our society today.

There is a lot of surprising humor in this play. But a lot of it is connected to big unexpected moments that I don't want to give away. But there were a lot of very funny bits and I thought the actors did a really good job delivering them in a very perfect way. One of my favorite moments was when one character brought out an electric device to shut another character up. When you see the show, you'll know what I mean. It was just absolutely hilarious.

People who would like this show are people who like surprising twists, funny but meaningful stories, and shady, whisky-drinking sisters. I think people should see this show. I think it is well-performed, well-written, and all around a fun show to be at.

Photos: Heath Hays

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