Barbecue at Mixed Blood Theatre

Jevetta Steele and Sandra Struthers in Barbecue. Photo by Rich Ryan.

Jevetta Steele and Sandra Struthers in Barbecue. Photo by Rich Ryan.

Robert O’Hara‘s clutch-popping Barbecue (Mixed Blood Theater, through October 16) is gimmicky. Nothing in the play is what it seems to be, character motivations change with breathtaking quickness, abrupt discoveries are made about characters really are and it would be the height of irresponsibility for me, as your intrepid reviewer, to ruin the play by revealing any of these myriad tricks to you. So I won’t.

The end.

All right, all right. I gotta write something. After all, HowWasTheShow.com is paying Big Bux for this review and I have to at least pretend that I am a Real Critic. What to do, what to do…

The acting! Talk about the acting! Yes!

The acting in Barbecue is first rate. The great Stephen Yoakam, the wonderful Aimee K. Bryant, the astonishing Regina Marie Williams, the goofily energetic Thomas W. Jones II (who also, renaissance fellow that he is, directs), the screechily effective Sandra Struthers, the archly effective Jevetta Steele, all marvelous. And then some actors I’ve never seen do fab work: Sue Scott, Dana Lee Thompson, Bonni Allen, Lolly Foy. These artists work hard, playing their roles with zest and gusto, forcing us to pay attention. They make the play work.

The play? Well, let’s face facts: Barbecue is static, exposition-heavy and, well, gimmicky. In lesser hands, it would be dreadful, but these gifted performers make it a treat. Barbecue zips right along and is great fun, a terrific opening to Mixed Blood’s season.

Go see it – and please don’t reveal any of the tricks to your chums.

John Olive is a writer living in Minneapolis. His adaptation of The Sisters Eight will be presented at First Stage Milwaukee. His screenplays, A Slaying Song Tonight and The Deflowering Of Father Trimleigh are under option. Please visit his informational website.

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