Nov. 25 2014 05:25 PM

A show that leaves political correctness at the door tops our coverage of local plays

Jaque Wilke and Gerard Joseph
Photo by Daren Scott

Greg Kalleres' Honky is a biting satiric comedy of what-ifs. What if people, black or white, spoke with absolutely no filters about race? What if there was a "race pill"—let's call it Driscotol after its inventor, Dr. Driscoll—that, when taken, removed all prejudice based on skin color. Farfetched as these what-ifs may be, they add up to 100 minutes of guilty laughter at the Lyceum Theatre, where the San Diego Repertory Theatre company is presenting the West Coast premiere of Kalleres' one-act play. 

It's guilty laughter because you can't believe you're chortling over characters spouting with such cavalier lack of restraint the most racist things you can imagine. Archie Bunker would be out of his league among this group.

But, of course, the mission of Honky is to stir thoughtful, post-curtain conversation about race and racism in America. The premise of the play, in fact, is a serious one: A sneaker company's ad campaign for a shoe aimed at "urban" young men has led to a murder on the streets over said shoe. This throws into turmoil the lives of the African-American shoe designer (Gerard Joseph), the white ad man who created the commercial (Francis Gercke) and the very white owner of the shoe company (James Newcomb). Complicating matters—and fueling the show's overdone fantasy side—are cameos by Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass.

It all unfolds in quick, high-pitched scenes in the Lyceum Space, with screen projections of New York City interchanging behind them. Honky makes so many points about race, tolerance and intolerance, and they come so fast and furiously, that your head is apt to be spinning even as the nervous laughter bubbles inside you.

Director Sam Woodhouse's cast of eight has no shortage of energy. Funniest is Jaque Wilke as Andie, a charmingly artless woman who'll say whatever's on her mind, damn the consequences. Joseph, as the shoe designer Thomas, has the most serious role and the inevitable moment of clarity at the end. That Andie and Thomas hook up is Honky's delicious irony.

If you're the hypersensitive type, this play is not for you. If your funny bone and conscience can operate at the same time, then it sure is.

Honky runs through Dec. 7 at the Lyceum Theatre at Horton Plaza, Downtown. $31-$75.

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A Christmas Carol: This is Cygnet Theatre's own unique, family-friendly, musical adaptation of the holiday classic about the transformation of one Ebenezer Scrooge. Opens in previews on Nov. 28 at the Old Town Theatre.

Bell, Book & Candle: A witch living in 1950s Greenwich Village casts a spell on her neighbor and, in the process, risks losing her magical powers. Opens Nov. 28 at OnStage Playhouse in Chula Vista.

The Second City's Nut-Cracking Holiday Revue: The Second City sketch-comedy troupe returns to San Diego with a holiday-focused show. Opens Nov. 28 at La Jolla Playhouse.

Now Playing

Spamalot: Fred is not yet dead in the musical version of the film Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Extended through Dec. 7 at Coronado Playhouse.

Absurd Person Singular: The marriages of three couples are dissected in a play that's set at parties on successive Christmas Eves. Presented by Scripps Ranch Theatre, it runs through Dec. 7 at the Legler Benbough Theatre in Scripps Ranch.

Enron: A highly stylized, satirical chronicle of the scandal-driven downfall of the Houston energy company and its arrogant CEO, Jeffrey Skilling. Through Dec. 7 at Moxie Theatre in Rolando.

Honky: Race relations are examined in this play about a shoe company that sees sales to white kids soar after a black youth is murdered for his shoes. Presented by San Diego Repertory Theatre, it runs through Dec. 7 at the Lyceum Theatre at Horton Plaza, Downtown.

The Hunchback of Notre Dame: A new musical adaptation of Victor Hugo's story of the not-super-attractive bell ringer Quasimodo and the enchanting gypsy Esmeralda. Through Dec. 7 at La Jolla Playhouse.

Wicked: The Wizard of Oz, told from the perspective of the Wicked Witch of the West and Glenda the Good Witch. Presented by Broadway San Diego, it runs through Dec. 7 at the Civic Theatre, Downtown.

I Do, I Do, I Do: A woman is in a heap o' trouble after promising to marry three different dudes. Through Dec. 14 at PowPAC in Poway.

The 1940s Radio Hour: A little New York radio station produces a lively musical broadcast for the troops during World War II. Through Dec. 21 at Patio Playhouse in Escondido.

Tru: This one-man play finds Truman Capote alone in his apartment with pills, booze and desserts. Through Dec. 21 at Diversionary Theatre in University Heights.

Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas: A total jerk is surprised when his tiny, wretched heart grows by a factor of three. Through Dec. 27 at The Old Globe Theatre in Balboa Park.

The Nutcracker: This is not the ballet! This is an updated musical-theater adaptation of the holiday classic, about a little girl who goes on a fantastical adventure as she grieves for her deceased brother. Through Dec. 31 at New Village Arts in Solana Beach.

Win Place or Die… My Jockeys are Killing Me: Mystery Café's latest comic-caper dinner-theater production is set at the Thoroughbred Club at Upson Down Race Track. It's ongoing at Imperial House restaurant in Bankers Hill.


See all events on Monday, Dec 5