Since my other duties at this publication leave me too busy to go to stage shows on a weekly basis, I thought I’d take the opportunity to take in both of the plays currently running at Stage West and write them up for you in one piece. Wildly different as they are, they both offer rewarding stuff to the curious theatergoer.
The uneven and raucous Bootycandy opens with five seemingly unconnected sketches, the first one with a little boy (Aaron Green) asking about his penis and his mother (Natalie Wilson King) giving the play’s title as a euphemism for that body part. The second and by far the best one features a black preacher (Djoré Nance) reading a letter from the pulpit expressing parishioners’ concern about homosexuals in the church choir. You may or may not be able to see the twist coming in the sketch, but Nance’s energy and brio make it riotously funny regardless. The fifth sketch, about a white man (Justin Duncan) confronting an unseen — but implied to be black — mugger, emerges as a loud misfire, but the effect of this is mitigated by a sixth sketch that rounds out the first act and reveals the previous playlets to be the works of different writers appearing at a conference of black playwrights presided over by a clueless moderator (Duncan again).
Director Akin Babatundé has usually worked for Jubilee Theatre, and he brings the same dexterity that he showed there over to Stage West, with most furniture being carried onto the set (either by stagehands or the actors) and revolving panels suggesting either a cramped kitchen or a tropical beach as the scene dictates. He elicits stellar efforts from all his actors, including Liz Mikel as a woman talking to one of her sisters (King again) about a relative naming her child Genitalia, a sketch with an incredibly hackneyed premise that nevertheless manages to work. Green does his part to hold things together as the only actor playing a single role, a young man named Sutter who comes to terms with his sexuality as he grows, and he shows off some snazzy dance moves during the show’s concluding Michael Jackson tribute.