What's it about?
Barbecue is an intervention set in a park to help Barbara, who is a drug addict. As her family surrounds her, in their own messed up way, Barbara is forced to make a choice and go to rehab. After coming from rehab we see the life of Barbara in a different light, through her memoir. As the play escalates, we are opened to the lies that are within the memoir; and as the family is being pulled into it, everything is not as we see.
What did I experience?
Let me bring you on my adventure - but when you do get the chance to to see Barbecue be ready to have your mind blown away by an unpredictable, twisted, suspenseful play. To start off, I do not think I have ever been to the Public Theater and being there was great. The moment I took my seat, I was in awe of the stage - the green, the sense of nature and the realness. The stage was set like central park and in all seriousness the trees appeared authentic. I had a couple minutes before the show started to get comfortable. I sat in an aisle seat close to the front of the stage, to my left there was a seat that stood empty between me and this guys that had no facial expression throughout the play. Nonetheless, once the production started, I felt cozy, as if I was in my bedroom sitting before my television set . Paul Niebanck came out as the initial "James T" and the first thing that came to my mind was, "oh shucks, I know this actor from some films" and from that I knew I was up for a treat.
Everyone was laughing except the guy that sat close to me. There were quite a few people in the show who were extremely loud and vulgar. At one point, I literally laughed so much that I got teary. And to be honest, most of this laughter came from the simplest thing a character would do or say. Like when Tamberla Perry, Black Barbara, came out acting as this stuck up superstar who seems normal, and just out of random starts licking trees, acting like a monkey, eagle and all manner of different creatures. When Black Barbara introduced herself as a superstar, it's almost like being pulled into another world within the play. I even began to wonder if I was still watching the same play, there was a complete transformation of the characters. It was so weird I didn't know what to expect or what to think anymore. As this section played out, I had a light bulb moment where I realized that the play started from the middle, then sort of went to the beginning and then to the end. I loved the confusion and suspense but when it ended I realized I was still trying to figure it out, what was the play really about?
As there were plenty of twist inside this play the biggest surprise, the shocker that caught everyone off guard, was just a few minutes before intermission, epic! The whole first half, I thought for sure they were showing or reflecting how two different cultural backgrounds deal with an intervention on the behalf of a family member. And even then I still wasn't caught up.
Black Barbara kept saying that entertainment is the business of lies, and I found myself questioning what was real from what wasn't in the play. The play kept me thinking because the main characters were so delusional. Barbara was caught in her lies and Black Barbara was stuck in the world she created for herself. Barbara had found solace in the untruth of her memoir. She had made it appear as if her family was extremely screwed up, as if they were the reason for who she had become using crack. Why she lied is still unclear, my thought is that she wanted someone to blame. Black Barbara however was like a person who was lost within herself. Even as she kept denying that she was black, I was drawn to the idea that she was the wild, crazy side of Barbara trying to unveil herself, forcing her back into her habits of using crack, the irrational and deceptive side. I believe that Black Barbara was still reflecting Barbara, she was symbolic in portraying the dark side of Barbara, her being mentally ill and having a drug addiction.
The message I took away from the play is that you can lose your voice when you get caught up in your lies. It can really be hard to distinguish reality from fantasy and that was what I thought happened to Barbara, she didn't find closure, she didn't get to the root of her problems instead she covered them with a lie. At the end, she got cut off from reality and suddenly we see her dark side taking glory and she is shut up.