Human Race presents Dayton-area premiere of ‘Barbecue’

Bold contemporary comedy places race in the spotlight.



Issues of class, family, stereotypes and self-destruction sizzle in Cincinnati native Robert O’Hara’s bold racial comedy “Barbecue,” which will have its Dayton-area premiere April 13-30 at the Loft Theatre courtesy of the Human Race Theatre Company.

When reflecting on the Black perspective while writing his play, O’Hara said he was inspired by a television show featuring a white man traveling the world eating.

“Black people eat,” O’Hara said in a virtual interview with the Human Race. “Why isn’t there a show about watching the Black guy eat? Why is it that there are a certain group of activities we are comfortable watching a certain group do as if that’s unique?... Every time I would turn on the TV a new group of white people (were) doing ordinary things. That inspired me to write ‘Barbecue’ and sort of play with perception.”

In the play, which opened off-Broadway in 2015, the same family is portrayed by a Black cast and white cast. The four O’Mallery siblings have planned a barbecue picnic for their youngest sister, Barbara, but they secretly plan to stage an intervention to confront her outrageous behavior and reckless drug and alcohol use. We soon learn that each sibling needs their own intervention; Lillie Anne calls James “white trash” – blackout. When the lights return, so do the four siblings: same park, same situation, same personalities, different actors. From that moment on, the two parallel families alternate, and the day becomes raucous and unpredictable.

Describing “Barbecue” as “funny and devastating all at the same time,” Human Race Artistic Director Emily N. Wells admires O’Hara’s ability to balance racially sensitive subject matter with sharp humor.

“He allows us to see everyone as human beings with strengths and weaknesses,” Wells said. “He allows us to see one another as whole, complete individuals rather than just one thing, which is so important. When we do that, we see and respect one another’s humanity. And we have a wonderful ensemble, which this piece needs. It’s been exciting to see this cast come together. Everyone in the show earned their role.”



The 10-person cast comprised of predominately Dayton and Cincinnati actors and returning and first-time artists includes A.J. Baldwin and Mierka Girten (“Incident at Our Lady of Perpetual Help”) as Marie, Burgess Byrd (“Gloria: A Life”) and Darlene Spencer (“Around the World in 80 Days”) as Lillie Anne, Rico Parker and Josh Aaron McCabe (“Deadline”) as James T, Marva M.B. Williams-Parker (“Gem of the Ocean”) and Lisa Stephen Friday as Adlean, and Oluchi Nwokocha and Erin Eva Butcher as Barbara.

‘The show will be unlike anything that anybody has ever seen’

Houston director Eboni Bell Darcy makes her directing debut with the Human Race. She serves as the Inclusion, Engagement and Training Director for Stages, a professional theater company devoted to holding up a mirror to the community, which she feels “Barbecue” does to great success.

“The show will be unlike anything that anybody has ever seen,” Darcy said. “When you’re diving into themes of race and class, folks get a little squeamish about whether or not they’re going to have a good time but this show is hilarious from start to finish. What better way for us to hold up a mirror to ourselves and look at ourselves as people than through comedy, watching families go through something very unique.”

Darcy considers O’Hara to be among the new wave of progressive, truth-telling Black playwrights working unapologetically. This acclaimed group includes Katori Hall (“The Hot Wing King,” “Tina – The Tina Turner Musical,” “P-Valley”), Jeremy O. Harris (“Slave Play,” “Zola”), James Ijames (“Fat Ham”) and Erika Dickerson-Despenza (“Cullud Wattah”).

“These Black writers are fearless, dangerous and tapping into stories that are uniquely Black – it’s truly fresh, truly new,” she said. “What Robert does with his shows is not copied. He and others write without regard to their commodification. They also all keep us laughing even as they reveal truths. In ‘Barbecue,’ you get to really see the nuances of class in America and folks that get pushed to the margins regardless of their color. Robert has a catalog of work that allows audiences to examine hard topics while laughing to their face hurts.”

In addition, according to Wells, Darcy has been very intuitive about ensuring all points of view are heard.

“One of the things that Eboni is doing really well is bringing her sense of balance between generations,” she said. “In terms of racial justice, how do different generations operate within that (theme)? Eboni is so deft at handling everyone’s point of view and perspective in the rehearsal room, which is essential for a piece like this. It’s really exciting to see that come to life in such a funny way.”



Confident that Human Race audiences will enjoy being challenged by something new and different, Wells praises O’Hara’s story structure, which makes for entertaining theater.

“There’s such a balance between pointing out the faults and the painful things and then at the same time you’re laughing until your sides hurt because it’s so funny,” she said. “I’m so excited for our audience to experience this on our stage. They are not going to know what hit them.”


What: “Barbecue”

Where: Loft Theatre of the Human Race Theatre Company, 126 N. Main St., Dayton

When: April 13-30; 8 p.m. on April 13, 14, 15, 20, 21, 22, 27, 28 and 29; 2 p.m. on April 16, 23 and 30; and 7 p.m. on April 16, 18, 19, 25 and 26.

Cost: $10-$53

Tickets or more info: Call 937-228-3630 or visit

FYI: The Human Race is coordinating a community barbecue Saturday, April 15 from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. at the Inspiration Church, 2900 Philadelphia Dr., Dayton. The free event will feature food, raffles and entertainment including spoken word.

Special Nights at The Loft:

Pay What You CAN

Wed. April 12, 8 p.m. Admission by non-perishable food donation for The Foodbank or a cash donation to benefit onefifteen.

Inside Track

Thursday, April 13, 8 p.m. A pre-show discussion begins at 7:15 p.m.

Sawbuck Sunday

Sunday, April 16, 7 p.m. There will be $10 tickets available beginning at 5:30 p.m. at the door.

While We’re On The Subject

Sunday, April 23, 2 p.m. A post-show discussion with guest speakers.

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