City Theatre Previews ‘Fat Ham’ (Sun., 3/3/24)

FAT HAM by James Ijames. City Theatre. March 2 – 24.

How good is Fat Ham? We’re talking about the play, not a suboptimal piece of pork. And the comedy-slash-drama is so good that it won the 2022 Pulitzer Prize for Drama before it even had a live production in front of an audience. (The prize committee watched an early digital version and apparently saw enough to say “This is it!”) Also, Fat Ham is not a straight-up modern adaptation of Hamlet. Rather, playwright James Ijames took the bare bones of Shakespeare’s plot and fleshed them out all zany in a play set at a family barbecue. Our hero is not a prince but an ample gay Black lad named Juicy. The barbecue is to celebrate his mom’s wedding to his uncle. But lo, the ghost of Juicy’s dead dad appears, claiming the couple conspired to murder him and Juicy must avenge the deed. Will Juicy do it? Or is he, as some believe, just a suboptimal piece of pork? The play includes a rendition of Radiohead’s “Creep” (“I’m a creep / I’m a weirdo,” etc.), and raises issues of Black masculinity and homophobia. But in the process, it raises the roof. City Theatre presents the Pittsburgh premiere of Fat Ham. 7 p.m. 1300 Bingham St., South Side. (M.V.)

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Mike Vargo

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