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'Barbecue' at the Public Theater an exciting experimental comedy

Constance Shulman, left, and Arden Myrin in

Constance Shulman, left, and Arden Myrin in "Barbecue." Photo Credit: Joan Marcus

It may be impossible to write an informative review of Robert O'Hara's untamed and unpredictable comedy "Barbecue" without giving away its major plot twists, but I'll give it a shot.

O'Hara gained the attention of Off-Broadway theatergoers last season with "Bootycandy," a wild collection of sketches about a gay black man, which resembled a graduate school seminar on race and gender mixed with "Saturday Night Live."

In addition to race, "Barbecue" tackles substance abuse, family dynamics, class, tell-all memoirs, the shameless pursuit of fame, manipulation of the truth and countless other topics in an experimental, over-the-top style.

It opens with four eccentric, trashy-looking adult siblings (including Constance Shulman of "Orange Is the New Black") at a public park located somewhere in Middle America, as they prepare for what looks like a party but is really a surprise intervention for their drug-addicted sister.

After just a few minutes, there is a sudden pause, and an all-black cast arrives to portray the same characters. Not long after that, the original cast returns, without any kind of explanation for the changes.

The first act concludes with a major revelation, and the comparatively toned-down second act essentially serves as a discussion of what we've already seen, with a few more surprises thrown in for good measure.

"Barbecue" may be rough and scattershot, but it is intellectually vigorous, often hilarious and quite exciting.

"Barbecue" runs through Nov. 1 at Public Theater, 425 Lafayette St.,


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