Play “Barbecue” by Robert O’Hara Summary

  • Updated July 25, 2023
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The UIC Theatre created enigma, comedy, and passion in the play Barbecue, by Robert O’Hara. It was presented by UIC School of Theatre and directed by Derrick Sanders.

A Community Park that shows a lifetime of misery and hurt from a family that wants their sister to get help for her addiction. Shows foreshadowing of a family which includes Lillie Anne, James T, Adlean, and Marie which depicts your stereotypical white hillbilly family with everyone with some sort of addiction despite it being drugs, alcohol, or an addiction of trying to help everyone created a fake Barbecue for their sister to try and convince her to go to rehab. Before Barbara gets there her brother and sisters are arguing and acting barbaric because they didn’t want to help her.

Their sister Lillie Anne convince them to stay and help. When Barbara gets to the park, she hears Lillie Anne talking about sending her off, they then tied her up to, so she won’t run so they can explain what’s going on. The play changes back in forth from the “real family” and the black family that will be reenacting their story in a movie. This movie was possible because while Barbara was in rehab, she wrote a memoir of the day at the Barbecue which by the way she fabricated a bit to make the story more realistic.

The language of the play was very serious but funny. The characters talked in a stereotypical way that portrays a “ghetto black” family and a “white hillbilly” family. They talked with heavy accents from the south. In a way the dialect of how they were talking was realistic. O’Hara made the black family say things that most black people would say which is “nigga” and saying this brought character and credibility to the play. The play had a lot of cursing to set the tone and feeling. It also was a bit of a comic language. The play jokes and phrases like when James T was talking about tasering Barbara “The minute Zippity Boom get out of hand this will calm her down” referring to the taser in his hand. The language of Barbecue allowed the audience to connect to some of the situations that was taking place.

Robert O’Hara wrote an amazing play. This play touches meaning themes, but I think the two most important themes are the importance of family and survival. O’Hara uses substance abuse to bring a family together and tell their story. Though the play had a lot of comedy in it, it still touched serious issues people faces today in society.

Barbeque took place in the park for a family that was being destroyed by drug and alcohol abuse. The “white trash hillbilly family” came to the park for the intervention of their sister known as Zippy Boom. Though none of them wanted to be there; especially their brother James T, they all stay to try and get their sister some help. The play change from the white family to the black family that is supposed to represent a “black ghetto family”. The two different families kept switching and it gave the audience some back story on what was going on in the play and who was who when the black family came on. It also, filled the room with laughter. Towards the end of the first act, audience figure out that the black audience is actors in a movie playing the white family story. Doing this caught the audience off guard, but we wouldn’t find out how their intervention turn into a movie until later in the play.

When the play starts back from the break. We saw white Barbara, but she looked clean and wasn’t messy. When the second person in the scene walks in looking stunning, we figure out that’s black Barbara. In this scene the play was a flashback on how the movie was created. Black Barbara was a as she called herself “A movie star singer” read White Barbara while she was in rehab fighting her own issues with her being a lesbian. When she read it, she wanted to produce and play the leading role as Barbara. White Barbara tells the movie star that she made up the whole memoir. But because Black Barbara wanted an Oscar so bad to prove everyone, she’s just not a “SINGER!” she told her they all lie in this type of business. They both had problems to over come and hide so, they enjoyed some crack in the park where it all went down. White Barbara got all the money she wanted and Black Barbara received the Oscar she has always wanted.

One of the major spectacle elements of the play was when you first walk in you hear birds chirping. I think the sound designer Joe Palermo did a great job making us know this play was taking place in a park. You can hear the wind, trees blowing all in the background. This brought the play to life more because it wasn’t dead silent before the play started. It worked synergistically with the visual theme of the play and made me feel like I was in a park when the play was happening. I do want to point out the audio supervisor Ryan Ingebritsen and audio assistance McKayla Griesbaum because both made sure that the audio of the park scenery was perfect. It wasn’t to low nor to loud and they turn it off when it was supposed to be so we can here the actors as if they were speaking directly at us.

MarieAnge Louis-Jean who played black movie star Barbara was a phenomenal actor. She really embodied her character and made she the audience know she was the stuck-up black movie star who doesn’t recognize herself as black. She brought the right amount of emotions when preforming in the end with the two Barbara’s. Her character was very believable and the way the got mad or when she got happy was like true emotions. The emotion she possessed that was eye catching was when she got sad bringing up her pass. It made me feel sympathetic for her.

The was an amazing play and people should most definitely go see it. It shows how a family was being broken and convinced their sister to go to rehab and because of this it benefited the family in the end. You will get drama, comedy, sadness, and charisma from watching this play. It give the insight on what any family can go through or is going through and how they can over come it.


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Play “Barbecue” by Robert O’Hara Summary. (2021, Jul 23). Retrieved from https://samploon.com/play-barbecue-by-robert-ohara/

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