As I began looking for the play to open our 15th Season, I hoped to find a work that would speak profoundly to the moment in which our civilization finds itself. I hoped to find a fresh voice who has their ear tuned to the pulse of our times, complicated as they are with divisions, prejudice, injustice, hatreds, and the ennui of a culture many feel is in danger of coming off the rails. In times like these, we turn our hopeful ear to playwrights, the prophets of our time, who have been blessed with the capacity of tuning their sensitive antennae to the tumult of our lives, to bring down insight, to illuminate the darkness, to light a tunnel through our troubles to the light at the end.
I was not 20 pages into Robert O’Hara’s Barbecue when I realized I had found what I was seeking. And as I read on, I become convinced that this was the script to open our season. Irreverent, insightful, and hilarious, Barbecue delves deep into the miasma of racism in America, confronting us with the sneaking tendrils of micro-aggression, subtle prejudices that we all are prey to, no matter how convinced we and our local San Francisco community are of our moral superiority. It is a simple trick he plays on us and yet we cannot escape the subtle ways he opens the doors of perception so we can see ourselves more clearly.
In the second act, Mr. O’Hara deepens the satire and delight of his Barbecue by turning his sharpened pencil to a public arena bedeviled by racism. Aiming the fire of his wit at ways in which our media reflect and perpetuate subtle and unsubtle prejudice lifts Barbecue to a higher level. There are few works of art which tackle deep societal issues on both the micro level of personal relationships and the larger arena of public discourse. We, in our little bubble of liberalism, are easily seduced by works of art that preach to our self-congratulatory choir. Barbecue gets under our skin, peeling away preconceptions and giving a fresh prescription to help us see.