Few stories are able to capture the complexity and nuance of what it means to navigate the intersection of being black and gay. Yet that’s exactly what Intiman Theatre’s production of Bootycandy does.
While the play reflects the path and story of one man named Sutter, it is also telling a broader story about how identity and race politics structure our daily lives and the decisions we make.
“Bootycandy is a big little play,” said Andrew Russell, the Producing Artistic Director at Intiman Theatre. “Simple in its appearance and structure, complicated and hysterical and huge in its echoing impact.”
Through short sketches and interactions between characters, the audience learns about Sutter’s upbringing—his family, congregation, and the people that have shaped him. Each of the characters we get to know on stage helps us understand more about who Sutter is and how he navigates the world around him.
The impact that Sutter’s relationships have on him—whether romantic, friendly, or familial—are an important reminder that nothing happens in a vacuum. It’s impossible to understand how we arrive at a certain point in life without examining the people and moments that have brought us there.
The production vacillates between moments of hilarity and an intense intimacy and heaviness that are hard to describe. I found myself not only looking to understand Sutter’s experiences, but also to see how they connect to the world around me. The themes the production touches on—family, love, relationships, and one’s sense of self—are universal in their applicability.
We all find moments of tension within our lives as we try to understand both who we are and how we’re viewed by society. Bootycandy beautifully and honestly unpacks those, and in the process questions our assumptions and the status quo. It’s a reminder that none of us are defined by any one aspect of our lives; that we all have layers of self and a unique set of experiences that mold and shape us. To ignore these layers or to not give people the space they need to share their full selves will inevitably set them up for failure.
Through a diverse cast and witty dialogue, the audience is also forced to acknowledge the hypocritical and stereotypical way that actors and playwrights of color often experience the world of mainstream theatre. Using humor and a blatantly over-the-top scenario, we see the all too real ways that racism continues to manifest itself in our culture. While the audience—myself included—laughs at the absurdity of the scene, it is also a biting reminder of how incredibly fragmented and formulaic our world can be.
Bootycandy was directed by Malika Oyetimein and is part of Intiman Theatre’s program The Director’s Lab, which highlights up-and-coming young directors.
This year’s festival, The Hunt is On, is officially closed, yet the incredible productions that explored timely and relevant topics will keep me thinking for months to come.
Pride Foundation was honored to be a community partner for this year’s festival, and we look forward to partnering with Intiman Theatre in new and exciting ways over the coming years.
Zachary Pullin is Pride Foundation’s Communications Manager. Email Zachary.