Saturday, March 26, 2016

BOOTY CANDY pushes the envelope at convergence continuum

Both Cleveland Public Theatre (CPT) and convergence-continuum (con-con) are noted for producing “on the edge” theatre.  Ironically, both are now featuring plays that examine the human experience from the viewpoint of sexual orientation and race/ethnicity.

Yuval Boim’s SEXCURITY, in a short run at CPT, is a devised piece which delves into the angst of being gay and Jewish.  It probes into the deep need to define ourselves and the challenges of finding a safe corner of the world.  Boim, the author and Darren Katz, the director, contend that the play is not autobiographical, per se, but has bits of each of them, which have been extrapolated into a theatrical vision.

Now on stage at convergence-continuum, Robert O’Hara’s BOOTY CANDY is a series of interconnected sketches which portray growing up gay and black.  The piece, which is both dramatic and funny, is a biographical work that illuminates O’Hara’s personal pain and pleasure.

O’Hara is blunt in his language and story telling.  His kaleidoscope covers such topics as foreskin, mother-child relationships, a cross-dressing preacher, genitalia, gay sex, racial issues, playwriting techniques, teenage sexual identity, lesbianism, a noncommitment ceremony (the opposite of the gay marriage ceremony), rape, death, suicide, aging, and sexual perversion.  There is full male nudity, the mocking of religion, and lots of four letter words. 

It’s the author’s coming to terms with his sexuality and the damage that the American culture’s attitudes towards sexual orientation and race has had on his psyche.

Many of the scenes are filled with fun.  Others are empathic and soul searching.

Among the standout segments are the opening in which Sutter (the name the author has tagged on the character who represents him), creatively portrayed by Wesley Allen, asks his mother questions about his childlike awareness of sex and his “booty candy” (uncut penis). 

“Dreamin’ in Church,” is a hysterically funny segment in which Michael May, portraying a hyper-evangelical black minister, comments on the number of gay men in the church’s chorus, while scolding the church members for their “salacious spreading of rumors.”  Following his rant, he rips off his churchly robes to reveal a pink dress, red high heeled shows, puts on a female wig, and comes out to the parishioners.

A funny but revealing scene takes place when India Nicole Burton and Rochelle Jones portray four different black women having multiple phone conversations as they discuss the name, Genitalia, which one of them is about to give to her soon-to-be born daughter.

Another segment places the spotlight on Genitalia, now all grown up, as a lesbian who is in the process of dissolving her marriage from her girlfriend, Intifada, in what the author has named, a “noncommitment” ceremony.

“Last Gay Play,” is a troubling segment in which a drunk, psychologically fragile straight man who has just been abandoned by his on-line female date, approaches Sutter and his black friend.  He propositions them. (The scene would have been aided if Nate Miller, who plays the white man, was more drunk and out-of-control.) The trio go back to the man’s hotel room.  The now naked Miller, his gym-ripped body shaking and quivering, is properly pathetic as he pleads to be touched and sexually attacked, both physically and with a “large black dildo.”  The ending of the scene is the strongest serious segment of the play.

Under the direction of Terrence Spivey, the cast, India Nicole Burton, Wesley Allen, Rochelle Jones, Michael May and Nate Miller, are excellent as they flow from one part to another.

Capsule Judgement:  BOOTY CANDY, as is true with most con-con plays, will please many (including me), and offend others. It is funny, revealing and generally well-staged. As publicity for the show states, “PLEASE BE ADVISED:  This play is called BOOTY CANDY, so they’ll be talking about booty, and show some booty.  That means strong language, mature themes, and full nudity.  You’ve been warned!”

BOOTY CANDY runs through April 16, 2016, at 8 pm on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at convergence-continuum’s artistic home, The Liminis, at 2438 Scranton Rd. in Cleveland’s Tremont neighborhood.  For information and reservations call 216-687-0074 or go to