For many LGBTQs across the nation-especially those of us of African descent-we have been breathlessly waiting for Robert O’Hara’s “BootyCandy” to come to our cities. “BootyCandy” has finally come to Boston, and each show has been a sold-out performance.

“BootyCandy” is  O’Hara’s thinly veiled  coming-out story of growing up African American and gay. And the narrative is told in the voice of the character named Sutter. O’Hara takes the audience on a  journey through his childhood home, church  and gay bars that’s depicted with excessive flamboyance, ribaldry, and unsettling poignancy.

“BootyCandy is a non-linear narrative comprising of disparate vignettes that’s “difficult for you to find a narrative in this play until the end, and it’s done that way on purpose,” O’Hara said in an interview. The structure of the play is a nod to George C. Wolfe’s “The Colored Museum,” which O’Hara admits was a huge influence.

The play opens with a precocious Sutter querying  his  mother about his genitalia. Showing her unease in having an explicit sit-down conversation with Sutter about his sex parts, the mother euphemistically tells him that his penis is called “bootycandy.”

Sutter is a gender non-confirming effeminate male decked out in full Michael Jackson regalia, complete with one sequined glove. 

The mother’s unease to talk about sex and to accept her son’s gender expression is disturbingly highlighted when Sutter comes home one day from school to inform her that a man has been following him. Because of  the “politics of silence” in the African American community that chokes a healthy conversation on human sexuality, Sutter’s mother is not only dismissive of his claim she immediately wants to know what Sutter did to provoke such an unsavory encounter. 

Her solution, however, for her son’s unmanly behavior is for him to stop reading Jackie Collins novels, stop listening to Whitney Houston albums, and stop participating in the school’s musicals.  The scene is absurdly funny yet poignantly disturbing. 

And just when you think you cannot laugh anymore, there’s the vignette with  the hilarious telephone scene between two actresses who play a group of sisters on a phone, one of whom is pregnant and determined to name her baby Genitalia. (I personally enjoyed this scene because it reminded me of when one of my sister-friends was determined to name her new born baby girl Uretha, in honor of the  Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin.) In a later vignette Genitalia is all grown up, a lesbian and standing before a minister with her soon to be ex-girlfriend, Intifada, in an official  break up  “non-commitment ceremony.” 

The lesbians’ “conscious uncoupling” (Not my term. It’s Gwyneth Paltrow’s in announcing the separation and then divorce of her spouse, Chris Martin.) vignette is a holds no barred repartee that in the end leaves both women utterly and irrevocably each other’s exes.

You cannot be LGBTQ of African descent and not have a personal yet all too familiar narrative about black church homophobia. O’Hara’s Reverend Benson is your assumed classic fire and brimstone exhorter, especially with his “call and response” homily.  But Benson has a secret of his own. 

Preaching a black queer liberation theology that excoriates the church’s gossip mongers (the “I Heard Folks” who congregate and become the “They Heard Folks”) in defense of its gay choir boys, Benson finally discloses his secret by disrobing and revealing what’s underneath his vestment.

While homophobia is a running thread in many of the vignettes, particularly the Black Church and black cultural  brand of it, the story line makes you laugh to keep from crying in order to look at hard and unresolved issues a young gay black male coming out confronts,  like racism, homophobia, sexual abuse, rape, poverty  to name a few -and at their intersections-   and how that might shape one’s self-esteem and further social sexual relationships.  

I surmise the best way to depict “BootyCandy” is to call it a tragicomedy, a play  that uses humor and comedic moments to obfuscate not only one’s painful personal journey of coming out, but, also, one’s  unresolved pain and trauma from sexual abuse. One of the  dark and most disturbing moments in the play is the last of  several gay bar cruising scenes. Sutter and his friend pick up a drunken white “supposedly  straight” male who solicit  the two men  to follow him home to sexually humiliate him. Sutter’s eagerness and cold indifference to fulfill the man’s request disturbingly suggests both racial and psychosexual revenge for his childhood sexual seduction by an older white man. 

You leave “BootyCandy” knowing O’Hara’s journey was difficult -like that of so many LGBTQ of African descent.  O’Hara didn’t touch on HIV/AIDS ravaging our communities, and the Black Church continued  silence on it. O’Hara masterfully shows that  only through humor could the absurdities of black homophobia keep you laughing from crying.