October 8, 2015

Not much food is consumed at either of the two fractious family gatherings depicted in “Barbecue,” a rawly funny but uneven new comedy by the talented Robert O’Hara that opened on Thursday at the Public Theater. Grilling meat and slicing pies are really only decoys, in fact. In both cases the real purpose of gathering the siblings from the O’Mallery families — one white, one black — is to wrestle a member of the clan into rehab. Mr. O’Hara, the author of last season’s audacious “Bootycandy,” has a heat-seeking imagination when it comes to style and structure. That play took the form of a sketch comedy show as it tackled a tough subject, the stigmatization of homosexuality in African-American culture. “Barbecue” also has a frisky structure, but, in this case, the fun stops a little too early: Mr. O’Hara springs a big reveal at the close of the first act that ultimately turns the play in a more serious and less satisfying direction.