Reviewed by Marc Wheeler
Celebration Theatre is back!
After a temporary homeless hiatus, Los Angeles’s only professional lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning, intersex, two-spirited and ally-themed theater company — daaaaamn, that’s a mouthful! — has secured new digs at The Lex Theatre in Hollywood and is launching their 33rd season with Robert O’Hara’s Bootycandy, a surefire assault to the senses and evidence that despite LGBT issues and stories becoming mainstream, Celebration Theater is not only STILL “here and queer”… they’re NOT going anywhere.
Let’s face it, that scrumptious word has surely piqued your curiosity. What the hell IS bootycandy? According to little Sutter’s mother — Sutter being our African-American hero on an oddity of an odyssey — it’s that thing he needs to pull back and wash and refer to as such because he’s too young to be calling it a dick.
Got it? Good. Let’s proceed.
Sectioned into eleven different chapters, Bootycandy is the nonlinear, semi-autobiographical, satirical life story of O’Hara offering slice-of-life, peek-a-boos on his coming-of-age journey from the 1970s onwards. Directed with impeccable splash and nuance by LA’s go-to visionary Michael Matthews, this flight of fancy is a crazed mix of mother-son sex education, outrageous pulpit-preaching, chicken-cackling town gossip, de-gaying interventions, love-and-dating misadventures, eyebrow-raising exploitation, “truth or dare” drinking games, comical break-ups, unnerving violence and BBQ spare ribs. Certainly not for the prudish or faint-of-heart, this warped comedy will have you howling with laughter as it rides the edges of humor and convention.
On the flip side, because of its metatheatrical, disruptive narrative and plot twists, as well as its broad range of characters from a mere cast of five, it’s a bit challenging to digest and comprehend; putting it all together will surely require some post-show mental work. That being said, aligning all the puzzle pieces isn’t altogether necessary for a great time at the theater, thanks in part to an insanely talented cast bringing all the juicy dialogue and outrageous scenarios to life.
Travina Springer, Anton Peeples, Julanne Chidi Hill, Michael A. Shepperd and Cooper Daniels each deserve individual praise, but the whole is definitely greater than the sum of its parts from this powerhouse ensemble. Exploding with talent, finesse and chameleon-like abilities they tackle a diverse spectrum of characters, genders, ages, sexualities and emotions all seamlessly blending into one another from scene-change to scene-change with stamps of specificity, spunk and over-the-top hilarity giving a thumbs-up testament to the power and uniqueness of live, balls-to-the-wall intimate theater. (Understudies are Niketa Calame, Nicholas Anthony Reid, Constance Jewell Lopez, Parnell Damone Marcano and Chris Ferro).
Scenic design by Stephen Joshua Thompson is well-crafted and on-point lit to glorious effect by Matthew Brian Denman whose prominent light-wall gives this exaggerated piece the “Studio 54” extravagance it deserves. Michael O’Hara’s props are spot-on while Rebecca Kessin’s sound design is sure to have your booty shaking. Allison Dillard’s costumes are smile-inducing awesome, showcasing the hits and misses of decades past with hysterical flair and fabulosity.
Rebecca Eisenberg is producer. Mark Giberson, Gino Marconi and Tracey McAvoy are associate producers. Ryan Bergmann is assistant director. Jami Rudofsky is casting director. Marcedes L. Clanton is production stage manager.
If cheers from Opening Night are any indication, Celebration Theatre has returned loud and proud, ready to defy theatrical norms, twist brains and tickle throats with laughter. With marriage equality won and LGBT acceptance on the rise, it’s time to get out of queer people’s bedrooms and explore what’s happening inside (arguably) more provocative walls: the theater.
Just remember: pull back (inhibitions), wash up and have a great time, everybooty!