Orange County Theatre Reviews

Written by Alina Mae Wilson

(All photos by Doug Catiller, True Image Studio)

In 2002, Dael Orlandersmith’s play, Yellowman, was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for Drama.  It’s understandable. As far as categories are concerned, Yellowman could not be considered anything else. With only two actors playing an entire cast of distinct and lively characters, this play is chock-full of opportunities for the chosen pair to showcase their talents.  And the cast of Chance Theater’s production certainly showcase their talents. Masterfully directed by Khanisha Foster and passionately performed by Julanne Chidi Hill (Alma + ensemble) and Dante Alexander (Eugene + ensemble), Yellowman is a vicious exploration of self-hate within Black America and an attempt at love by two of its children.

Dante Alexander in the OC premiere of Dael Orlandersmith’s play, “Yellowman.” Directed by Khanisha Foster, this Pulitzer Finalist will be playing thru October 24th on the Cripe Stage at the Bette Aitken theater arts Center in Anaheim, CA.

Alma is a dark-skinned Black woman from the Gullah (or “Geechee” as is often said) region off the coast of South Carolina and the daughter of a struggling, single mother.  Eugene is a light-skinned Black man. He lives nearby and has issues with his tumultuous parents.  The story begins with the two characters reflecting on their family members and their family histories.  As the two grow and learn, their relationship strengthens. Their love for one another deepens, even as those around them grow embittered.

Kristin Campbell does a beautiful job as the play’s Scenic Designer.  The shells and cutlery spread out in broken pieces across the background evoke a sense of antiquity.  Before I realized it was modeled after a beach, I thought it was meant to resemble a museum.  The multi-layered stage clearly, easily, and effectively distances the characters when they are meant to be in different scenes and brings them together for more personal moments.

Acting:

The acting is terrific.  Required to command the stage for two hours with no intermission, Julanne Chidi Hill and Dante Alexander are fantastic at embodying every character.  Entire conversations are held between two characters played by one actor. It’s so realistic, very little suspension of disbelief is required.  Having said that …
Yellowman is painful. It’s bitter, malicious, and mean-spirited.  Dael Orlandersmith is a talented and passionate writer, but I cannot applaud Chance’s choice of putting on this show when Black people are already so bombarded with images of their own suffering and strife.  Proclaiming colorism exists is like proclaiming water is wet.  I suppose one could argue Chance is making an attempt at bringing awareness of colorism and self-hate within the Black community to an audience that might not know much about it. However, due to the absence of non-Black characters, the story does not require the audience to engage in any self-reflection or considerate thought beyond “Oh my God, look at these Black people struggle.  It’s so sad.”
Yellowman is a stomach-churning showcase of pain and fear.  It is fantastically acted and powerfully written, but I couldn’t bring myself to enjoy a story so jam-packed with suffering and devoid of optimism — no matter how critically acclaimed it is.

Good Show!
Review
8 Overall
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