Bootycandy’s Other Music
Robert O’Hara’s Bootycandy was inspired in part by the life and music of Michael Jackson. And there’s no better feeling than having composer Lindsay Jones’ re-workings of “Smooth Criminal” and “Beat It” playing in your head after rehearsal. But what strikes me most strongly as a young director about Robert’s work is his calibration of the other music in Bootycandy - the music of his text. Robert crafts the actors’ delivery of his dialogue with great precision. In rehearsal, Robert conducts the symphony of Bootycandy. He waves his arms, snaps to an unseen metronome and gestures at the exact moment an actor should speak to end a beat of silence. At times, he paces around the rehearsal room with eyes shut, listening.
One of Robert’s aims with Bootycandy is to show the different ways we speak to different people (parents, siblings, coworkers, friends and those of a different race, age, or sexuality) and in different situations (at the kitchen table, in the bedroom, at work, in church, or on the phone). He does so with an intricate poetry, which I fully grasped while running lines with actors Benja Kay Thomas and Lance Coadie Williams. Vocal emphasis and grammar drive the play’s language. When working on scene seven, “Happy Meal,” Robert instructed Benja, who plays a mother cross-examining her son, to change all her question marks to periods, which resulted in an additional comedic layer.
This exchange is written:
Sutter: I was reading a Book in the Library. I left the library and he started following me. I went down the wrong street to trick him. Then… I ran.
Middle Aged Mother: Iran? … What Iran got to do with it? Who you know in Iran?
But in rehearsal, Benja boomed:
Middle Aged Mother: IRAN. … What Iran got to do with it. Who you know in Iran.
These grammatical changes let us know just who’s in charge in this house.
What holds all the scenes together is the way this verbal music serves Robert’s singular blend of outrageous hilarity and pithy observation, creating (to quote his characters) an impact that “lingers there . . . where you can feel its presence in the space it went through.”
Will Steinberger is the Wilma’s Literary/Artistic Assistant and the production’s assistant director.