In Play Reviews

Bootycandy is not easy to present,” notes playwright Robert O’Hara. “But being Black and Queer ain’t easy either.” Bootycandy is presented by Fuse Theatre Ensemble as the featured production of OUTwright Theatre Festival, and opened June 14 in conjunction with Portland Pride. It explores what it means to be a black gay man in America.

Shareen Jacobs and Shani Marie Harris-Bagwell in Bootycandy. Photo by Greg Parkinson.

As its playwright indicates, this is a complicated (and autobiographical) play which follows the life of young Sutter (Charles Grant) as he grows from a clueless kid into a gay black man who is marginalized by his family and society in general, and who struggles for his identity in a life with and apart from them.

Being marginalized and confused by what life deals one is no laughing matter. But Robert O’Hara has managed to turn these experiences into an outrageously funny show featuring Shareen Jacobs, Shani-Marie Harris Bagwell, Gerrin Delane Mitchell, and John Corr, who play many roles in the story of Sutter’s coming-of-age.

In  series of interconnected vignettes, Bootycandy introduces the audience to Sutter’s mother and her friend, his pastor, his stepfather, his granny, and several “I heard folk” talking about “they heard folk”. There’s a baby named Genitalia, a conference about The Black Playwright, and a break-up ceremony between the adult Genitalia and her wife. Think of it as an onstage “Saturday Night Live”. It’s outrageous and surreal and hilarious X-rated satire that brilliantly brings to light issues that straight white people could never imagine. The play opened at Wooly Mammoth Theatre in Washington, D.C. in 2011 and made its off-Broadway debut in 2014.

Gerrin Delane Mitchell and Charles Grant in . Photo by Greg Parkinson.

Director James Dixon manages to pull it off without a hitch,  with amazing backstage help from assistant director Devon Roberts, costume designer Morgan Meister, sound designer Christopher Beatty, scenic designer Tyler Buswell, and artistic director/lighting designer/props master Rusty Tennant.

The OUTwright Theatre Festival is a yearly event  that features a variety of performances, readings, and workshops all centered around telling queer and LGBTQ+- centered stories by queer storytellers, artists, and actors. It runs through June 30 at The Interstate Firehouse Cultural Center, 5340 N. Interstate Ave., Portland, OR.

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