Playwright Robert O’Hara sums up his play “Bootycandy” with the tagline “Everybody is welcome, no one is safe.” Which should serve as fair warning to audiences to expect something that will delight in both embracing and offending their sensibilities.
“You deserve what you get if you come to a play called ‘Bootycandy’ and you’re not prepared for something outrageous,” O’Hara says. “I think theater is like a bus; you get on and you can’t tell the bus driver, ‘Go faster,’ or ‘Drop me off at my door,’ or ‘Stop so I can pick up some food.’ You’re on this bus and it’s going to go at this pace down these routes and you’re here to experience it and get off when you need to. There’s a stimulating danger.”
The show ranges from the pulpit to the street corner, and references pop culture icons from Michael Jackson to Jackie Collins. However, the audacious title comes from O’Hara’s childhood. “It’s one of those little silly names that parents make up instead of saying the explicit names for your private parts. My parents and grandparents used to say ‘bootycandy.’ My mother claims they said ‘boo boo candy,’ as if that makes more sense, but I think her memory has lapsed.”
On a more concrete level, O’Hara, who will direct his play at the Wilma starting Wednesday, describes “Bootycandy” as “a variety show based around the themes of sexuality, family and hilarity.” He likens the series of interlocking sketches as akin to watching “Saturday Night Live” or “In Living Color” or, perhaps more accurately, attending an old-fashioned vaudeville show.
“In vaudeville you would go and see strippers and magic acts and animal acts and a little bit of blue humor. I’ve seen people watching the show get offended, and then out of nowhere they’re rolling on the floor because there’s such silliness involved. There’s no huge statement that I’m trying to make, no message — just enjoy yourself.”