Photo by Heath Hays

Family cook-outs often conjure a sense of dread, both for family members and outside observers. Polite small talk, Aunt Mary’s barely edible potato salad, and awkward pauses typically prevail under sweltering hot conditions and irksome insects.

Playwright Robert O’Hara is taking Chicago audiences to a gathering you won’t want to miss. Barbecue is Strawdog Theatre’s outrageous tale about alcohol, fame, and the manipulation of truth.

Photo by Heath Hays

To delve into a plot summary is to divulge too much and reveal too many surprises. Suffice it to say, O’Hara cynical look at the Hollywood machine is a delicious slice of American life that is both hilarious and thought provoking.

Director Damon Kiely’s stellar cast is so authentic, that it’s difficult to believe they are actors. The 10 person ensemble brings terrific chemistry to the proceedings.

steppenwolf plays host to Strawdog’s production in their cozy spot at 1700 North Halsted Avenue as part of their LookOut Visiting company program. steppenwolf’s new space includes a full bar with small bites which is perfect for  a pre or post show chit chat with friends.

As for Strawdog, the 30 year old company has been undergoing some major location changes, but will happily land at 1802 West Berenice Avenue. They continue their season in January with an adaptation of Henrik Ibsen’s The Pillars of Society called Pillars of the Community. That will be followed by the World Premiere Play Damascus.

Photo by Heath Hays

New Yorkers and visitors who find themselves in Chicago during the run of any of their productions would be wise to check out Strawdog Theatre Company. If Barbecue is reflective of their consistent quality, it will be time well spent.

Barbecue runs through September 30th at steppenwolf’s 1700 Theatre (1700 N. Halsted Avenue. Chicago, IL). For tickets and information, visit: