A few days ago we were sitting outside at Cafe Orlin, enjoying our weekly “date lunch.” Sitting next to us were two young men talking business. Their voices threatened to drown out our quiet conversation.
As a writer, though, my ears perked up during a brief exchange that sounded like a faint, uncertain gay proposition. “Oooh, I thought. Material.”
About that time, a bicyclist had a confrontation with a car. He seemed more shaken up than injured, though his bike didn’t fare so well. Someone noticed he had dropped his cell phone in the street during the melee, and the cafe customers mustered their voices in unison to tell him.
Stories, stories, stories everywhere. In my daily East Village adventures, they jump out at me from street corners, drop down from the sky, swirl among the fallen autumn leaves. Some are funny, some are sad, all are interesting, and my creative well is filling more and more each day.
We’re always looking for good stories, and that includes those found in the theater. Having visited many times in the last several years since our daughter moved here, we have enjoyed many productions. Over time, though, I’ve grown restless with Broadway, which is forced for economic reasons to play it safe. There are always the shows that poke fun at the Broadway beast, self-conscious musicals that, like Kardashian mirror selfies, get tiresome after the first thousand or so.
Because we’re spending five months in NYC, we are looking for off-Broadway productions, good stories, works in development, the hidden gems of a city with boundless creative energy.
Our first show did not disappoint. Barbeque is a dysfunctional family drama with a big twist that’s revealed just before intermission. It begins with parallel stories of a black family and a white family having barbeques in the park. The barbeques are a subterfuge, though, with the real intention to stage interventions for a drug-addicted sister. The rest of the family members are ill-qualified to conduct the interventions, patterning them from a television show.
At first, I struggled to accept the concept of intervention as fodder for comedy. The story comes across, at first, as more sad than anything, and not funny at all. However, when the cast reveals its twist, things get interesting, and the second half amps up the volume. Our laughter is sometimes painful and often self-conscious…but we laugh nonetheless.
Barbeque, performed at The Public Theater, is quirky, strange, and fun — a worthy first outing in search of good, original work.