‘Barbecue’ Grills Up Layers of Comedy with a Slice of Commentary

By C.J. Williams


Written by Robert O’Hara; Directed by Summer Williams; Scenic Design by Jessica Pizzuti; Costume Design by Tyler Kinney; Lighting Design by Jen Rock; Sound Design by David Wilson. Presented by Lyric Stage Theater, 140 Clarendon St. Boston, MA.


“Barbecue”, the new comedy by Robert O’Hara currently being staged at the Lyric, dives right in. Into comedy, into the half-tragic, half-sidesplitting look at addiction in the O’Mallery family, and into a park where the team of dysfunctional characters are setting up for an intervention with their drug-and-alcohol-addled sister, Zippity Boom.

Or does it?


That’s a question that may not be on your mind as you settle in to enjoy the pandemonium. But when the scene shifts with a sharp darkening of the lights, and you find yourself confronting a whole new cast, you might just begin to get an inkling that the layers here run deeper than fluff comedy.


And deeper than a clever farce in the vein of the cheap TV show, Intervention.


It turns out, comedy can comment as well as bring on the laughs.


I found myself surfacing from being slightly bored – (the redneck banter of the O’Mallery clan is profanity-laden (be warned) and can get a little tedious) – into puzzled attention. But how can I describe the surprise without giving it away?


I can’t.


Without robbing you of the rumble-tumble enjoyment – and the shock – know that “Barbecue” delivers an expertly performed show by a cast with the chops to hit hilarity through both ham and subtlety. “Barbecue” is staged, and hits the audience, in layers; and those layers span belly-laughs to race, addiction to cultural perception. You may find yourself examining your cultural stereotypes in the same instant you’re choking on a giggle.


Can comedy go deep? Yes.


Can choking mix with hilarity? Yes.


Is addiction tragic? Yes.


Is the insanity of both addicted and non-addicted family members a recipe for perfect comedic incongruity? Yes.


Does “Barbecue” raise more questions than answers?


It turns out, yes.


And if comedy can provide valuable cultural commentary, “Barbecue” embodies the balance necessary to succeed at the task.


So have I spoiled your jaunt off to see this chokingly funny show downtown? I hope not.  If you’re looking for a good time in the theater, O’Hara, the Lyric team, Director Summer Williams, and each member of the cast, give that in spades. But perhaps they give you a double-value this time around: the layered opportunity of being able to laugh at the same time as learning to see and understand the relational, racial, and media cultures that sometimes are unamusingly hidden. for more info, go to: http://www.lyricstage.com/

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