There is a heavenly comedy on Broadway—can the church say “Amen”? Amen. “Chicken & Biscuits” playing at Circle in the Square Theatre on West 50th Street, takes everyone to church as Black playwright, Douglas Lyons—making his Broadway playwright debut—tells us the hilarious story of the Jenkins family. The father, who was the pastor of the church, has died and his homegoing brings home a lot more than family members to mourn. It brings home siblings that have a very vivid rivalry. It brings home sisters—Baneatta and Beverly––complete opposites in demeanor, education, culture and definitely in attire. It brings together Baneatta and the gay son she won’t accept, Kenny and his white, Jewish boyfriend, Logan. And, of course, it wouldn’t be a complete comedy set at a Black pastor’s church funeral, without there also being a family secret.
Yes, Lyons manages to put it all in there. There’s also some hilarious tension every time that Logan encounters Baneatta—tension rendered delightfully hilarious by utilizing the challenge music from Clint Eastwood westerns. Every family has people in it that know how to bring the tacky and the crazy and that is definitely sister Beverly and her teenage daughter—La’Trice.
There are a lot of marvelous elements to this show, but I don’t want to give them away. When you first step into the Circle in the Square Theatre––which is perfectly suited for this production––you hear gospel singing and it gets you in the church spirit. The elaborate scenic design by Lawrence E. Moten III, sound design by Twi McCallum and lighting design by Adam Honore all lend themselves to you feeling that you are about to catch the spirit. Costume design by Dede Ayite and Hair/Wig design by Nikiya Mathis also complement this production. Looking out into the mixed race audience I felt so wonderful, just seeing all of us in this theater setting together, after all that we have been through with theater being shut down due to the pandemic. “Chicken & Biscuits” offered this audience a comedic fare that everyone gobbled up. There was constant laughter and applause as we watched the humorous creation of Lyons manifest before our eyes. The cast is an ensemble that just works well together. Cleo King was strong and pigheaded as Baneatta, Norm Lewis—making his Broadway debut in a play—was absolutely hilarious as Pastor Reginald Mabry, especially when it came to him saying some words about the dearly departed pastor and reading inspirational scriptures from the Bible. Lewis took those scripture readings to a heavenly level of humor and we all ascended with him! It was gloriously funny! Ebony Marshall-Oliver was marvelous and humorous as tacky, cursing, boob-showing sister Beverly, coming to her father’s funeral hoping to catch a husband. Aigner Mizzelle was delightfully obnoxious and annoying as La’Trice, a teenager looking for money and hoping to drop a rap demo. Devere Rogers was engaging as Kenny, the gay son, who while accepted by his late grandfather, couldn’t figure out how to get to a higher ground with his judgmental mother Baneatta. He also provided to be multi-dimensional as he interacted with his boyfriend Logan and his sister Simone. Alana Raquel Bowers was funny as Simone, a sister who felt that Kenny stole her attention when he was born and also past judgment on his life choices. Natasha Yvette Williams plays Brianna Jenkins and gives a stunning performance. Michael Urie as Logan is absolutely priceless. He takes that character to a level of hilarity that had the audience in tears.
“Chicken & Biscuits” also has brilliant direction by the youngest Black director on Broadway, who is also making his Broadway debut—Zhailon Levingston. Go see “Chicken & Biscuits,” playing through Nov. 28, and indulge in a heavenly, sumptuous, comedic theatrical dish.
For more info, visit www.chickenandbiscuitsbway.com.