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Entertainment

Bootycandy' is an ambitious satire

Robert O'Hara directs

Robert O'Hara directs "Bootycandy,"a series of sketches about coming-of-age as a black and gay man, starring Jesse Pennington, left, and Phillip James Brannon, at Playwrights Horizons in Manhattan. Photo Credit: Joan Marcus

You’ll have to see the show to learn what body part “Bootycandy,” the peculiar, slang-style title of Robert O’Hara’s satirical and offbeat five-actor play, is a codeword for. It’s actually a surprise.

However, I can tell you that the show, which serves as the season opener for Off-Broadway’s Playwrights Horizons, is an uneven, messy but often hilarious ride throughout the imagination and memories of a gay African-American male.

Imagine a graduate school seminar in gender and racial studies and deconstructionist theory, as told through the skit-like structure and over-the-top tone of “Saturday Night Live.”

The first few vignettes include an awkward “birds and the bees” chat between a mother and son, a pastor who reveals himself to be a cross-dresser in front of his congregation, a four-way phone conversation about an extremely inappropriate name for a baby and a rambling homeless man.

This culminates in a writers’ symposium, supposedly taking place at Playwrights Horizons, where an uninformed moderator very awkwardly asks four African-American playwrights about the plays we’ve seen so far and what they mean.

The second act begins with a riotously funny sketch where a suburban mother and stepfather misconstrue a serious warning from their Michael Jackson-loving, Jackie Collins-reading teenage son that a stranger followed him home by advising the boy to drop out of a high school production of “The Wiz.”

The rest of the play is increasingly serious, enigmatic and self-indulgent. By the end, you get the sense that O’Hara is lost in his ambition.

Nevertheless, the exaggerated personality that O’Hara and his cast offer is refreshing and unruly enough to make checking this out worthwhile.

If you go: “Bootcandy” plays at Playwrights Horizons through Oct. 12. 416 W. 42nd St., playwrightshorizons.org.

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