One of the many interwoven questions raised by “BootyCandy” is one that all audiences must ask themselves at some point: what is the purpose of theatre? According to the protagonist, a playwright named Sutter, he seeks to make his audience “choke.”
That is just what “BootyCandy” does; it chokes viewers with emotions from every degree of the spectrum. From cackling laughter to audible gasps, those lucky enough to catch the play will go through it all. But it isn’t just the script that made this play so impactful. The cast and crew, including director Martin Damien Wilkins, were the real victors here.
Working with the unusual setting of the Mint Museum Randolph’s round auditorium, Wilkins’ methods were creative and effective. A backdrop of fragmented screens took the place of extensive props, with images projecting background, scene titles and dramatic text. The interactive way that each screen changed with actors’ cues was executed masterfully.
The actors themselves deserve acclaim, especially Jeremy DeCarlo, whose multiple characters were each distinct and memorable. Not every actor could play a transvestite preacher, a bumbling stepdad and an elderly grandmother with the poise and variation that DeCarlo achieved. Lydia Williamson and Ericka Ross also pulled off a challenging scene in which both actors switched characters multiple times, with mannerisms and small props aiding the rapid shifts.
Although Kevin Aoussou’s Sutter was the most complex character by far — the subject of a coming-of-age story spanning decades — the evolution of his character was not as emphatic as it might have been. Nevertheless, Sutter’s story was compelling and his body language expressive. Aoussou’s portrayal was more subtle than his co-stars’, but still he rendered his character the most sympathetic of the bunch…which is why the twist in the second act was such a surprise.
After connecting to that character for an hour and a half, that twist left me feeling betrayed. The script acknowledged that, and turned the fourth wall on its head in a vindicating way. Writer Robert O’Hara consistently referenced the audience, and it brought all of us into the action of the play along with the cast.
Four of the five-member cast played multiple parts, but a combination of acting prowess and costuming brilliance helped even the slower audience members follow shifts fairly well. A series of wigs were the foremost method for showing time period, from the afros of Sutter’s early childhood to his teenage Jehri curl and adult buzzcut.
Like a true coming-of-age story, “BootyCandy” touched on complex topics and inspired its audience to keep thinking after the curtain fell. Sexuality, morality and consent were at the forefront. Race was also a complicating factor, though it almost seemed that O’Hara wanted to bring it up just to claim its irrelevance in the grand scheme of theatre.
For adults who want a raw, real, somewhat scandalous viewing experience, the Actor’s Theatre of Charlotte’s production of “BootyCandy” is right on target. Playing until March 19 at the Mint Museum on Randolph Road, 2730 Randolph Rd., this memorable show is most definitely worth the time.
For showtimes, tickets and more information, visit atcharlotte.org.