Dallas — With a play title like Stacy Has a Thing for Black Guys, audiences would be forgiven for expecting a certain kind of comedy—and possibly more than a few uncomfortable, too easy, #sorrynotsorry jokes about race and genitalia. Not saying those expectations would be entirely wrong, but playwright Ruben Carrazana has something else in mind.
This play is fiercely funny in unexpected ways, and both the title and the substance have layers. All the more impressive considering that it is Carrazana’s first playwriting venture.
Carrazana, a company member of Cara Mía Theatre Company, has been working on the play for three years, developed “with zero resources but an incredible amount of love and support and favors from friends and colleagues.” It’s now having its world premiere presented by The Tribe at the Latino Cultural Center, with the seats on the stage in a grab for the intimacy the LCC lacks.
Directed by Jeffery Bryant Moffitt (who also co-designed the set, which looks good but maybe a bit too polished, with Carrazana), the play opens with the three characters in a wannabe-bougie living room. Married couple Stacy (Alexandra Lawrence) and Harold (Brian Witkowicz) have over a guest named Mac (Christopher Dontrell Piper).
Why he’s there is revealed soon enough—but not too early—and eventually the action rolls out. It seems as if the play takes too much time to get to the next development, but when its 100 minutes are up, it feels just right. It could be debated whether shortening it by 10 minutes and taking out the intermission would work better. But probably not—the payoff with the first few minutes after intermission is priceless.
That’s thanks to Witkowicz, who we haven’t seen enough of in the past few years. He’s tops at playing men who probably won't ever have their stuff together; his level of emotional dishevelment simultaneously adorable and frustrating. It doesn’t matter who thinks Stacy is out of his league, because he believes it.
Lawrence turns the goofy charm a bit too high in the early scenes, but given the situation, the nervous energy of all three characters can be as dense as a decade-old fruitcake. Stacy’s love for her husband reveals itself in quiet flourishes, and Witkowicz and Lawrence have that special chemistry of two people who consider quirkiness each other’s most attractive trait.
Piper is along for the ride as he’s put in some really awkward positions, physically and in other ways that relate to the play title’s implications about race. He might have been the toughest character for Carrazana to write, and Piper's portrayal plays to the complexities.
With the storyline of a married couple and a guest in an awkward night of drinking—although here it’s merely lemonade—there’s a nod to Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (one of the characters has a nickname that makes this homage even more obvious). Both of these plays' titles have an air of schoolyard taunting. The danger of gossip is a theme with Stacy. This time, “get the guest” takes a different path and it’s much more hopeful about marriage. And like Albee’s play, the twists are always surprising and funny.
The Tribe (Katherine Bourne, Carrazana, Janielle Kastner, Dylan Key, Brigham Mosley and David Price) is artistically adjacent to other newish groups that mostly sprung from Southern Methodist University students, such as House Party Theatre and PrismCo, all of which have developed individual styles.
After The Tribe’s other successful production this year, Kastner’s Ophelia Underwater, it’s clear that the focus is on thoughtful development of new, locally written scripts, presented when it’s ready and not just because the company needs to put something out there.
That, and understanding the art of crafting a great title.