Want to unite an audience with laughter? Write about race.
That must have been Greg Kalleres’ thinking when he wrote Honky, which is WaterTower Theatre’s showy yet oddly empty offering for this OOTL. Just as many have proven before, nothing is funnier than people getting tongue-tied when trying to be politically correct—which usually leads them to be all the more offensive. Here it’s a mine field of well-meaning insults misconstrued to become flat-out derogatory bombshells, yet somehow Honky lacks bite.
A strong cast is led by Calvin Roberts, playing a shoe designer whose latest creation inspired one black kid to kill another just to possess the sneaks. Ian Ferguson is the white guy who wrote the commercial—unashamedly imagining taglines he thinks sound “urban”—and Alan Pollard is the slimy exec who’s thrilled to bits that his product is receiving such strong “endorsement.” You can’t buy that kind of publicity.
At just under two hours (with no intermission), the play introduces a lot of characters and storylines yet doesn’t bother to resolve them all. The focus shifts about midway through from business to romance, as Ferguson’s daffy fiance (Whitney Holotik) hooks up with Roberts and Ferguson tries to assuage his guilt by putting the moves on his black therapist (solidly played by Rebecca McDonald). Rather than exploring these trysts, Kalleres introduces a new subplot about a wonder drug designed to erase racism. Jeff Burleson is given some choice cameos to portray the side effects, along with Adam A. Anderson and Lord Alfred Brown.
See it? Why not? Everyone’s a little bit racist.
Studio Theatre, repeats Mar. 8 at 5 p.m., Mar. 9 at 2 p.m., Mar. 12 at 7:30 p.m., Mar. 14 at 9 p.m., and Mar. 15 at 5 p.m.