BWW Review: YELLOW is an Emotional Casserole Worth Going Back For Seconds at THEATRE DOWNTOWN
Del Shores is a playwright skilled in baking up truthful content while giving a loud voice to a struggle of gay southerners. His previous family dynamic plays include the madcap "Sordid Lives," and the jaggedly abusive "Confessions of a Trailer Trash Housewife." Audiences that frequently attend his productions are a custom to discovering a casserole with a familiar flavor that resonates in the mac and cheese of their own family gathering. For some it's sour cream, and others its cheddar. The beats Shore brings into this work is no different. "Yellow" playing at Theatre Downtown is a family drama/comedy following the trials and tribulations of the Westmoreland family. This all-American Mississippi family is at face value the cookie cutter of the ideal we are taught to be "normal".
Bobby (Tim Seale) and Kate (Brooke Wood) are the successful and happy couple. He's an ex-Denver Bronco turned high school football coach and she's a successful therapist. They have two children Dayne (Ben Hebert) and Gracie (Mea Allen). Dayne is the top football player of the county, and Grace is the biggest drama queen (In both theater and attitude) this side of the Mason-Dixon line. Shores traditional plot connected neighbors are Gracie's (Allen) best friend Kendall (David Parker) and his fanatically Bible thumping, religious zealot mother Sister Timothea Parker (Penny Thomas). The play opens up with relatable maneuvers straight from any family's playbook. Sibling bickering, working parent squabbles, teenage angst in prepping for the big football game, and auditions for upcoming school play.
Without giving too much of the story away, a turn for the worse delivers an unexpected illness. As a result this "perfect" southern family is thrown into a building storm of emotional and physical turmoil. The struggle breaks opens layers of pain to expose raw, heavy and hard to face truths. Bobby (Seale) and Katie (Wood) are not only are fighting against Dayne's illness, they end up in a marital battle royale themselves. Over dramatic Grace is fighting for recognition her place in the family. Flamboyant Kendal (Parker) and Timothea (Thomas) are pushed into radical acceptance in unspoken of aspects of each their lives and future. Dayne (Hebert), the poster child of southern male perfection, is in the biggest fight of them all. His strength, attitude and constitution offer a shining light. Each of the character's individual response to Dayne's (Hebet) diagnosis causes a domino effect that lights a firework that explodes throughout two acts.
The approaching family conflict builds in Del Shore's signature combination of scorching emotions and southern flair. Each character takes an individual path to cope and hold on to the splintering of their normalcy.
Brooke Wood (Kate) and Tim Seale (Bob) each deliver impressive and limitless emotional connection to their character. Your literally leave exhausted from how relentlessly their performance clutches at your heart, and never lets it go. Ben Hebert (Dayne) delivers a performance with heartfelt positivity and an essence of endurance. Mea Allen's (Gracie) skillful performance taps into the abrasive teenager we all were. At the same time showing a tender heart and vulnerability.
David Parker (Kendall) provides an alluring energy to a child longing for normalcy, and acceptance to what his heart needs, and wants. Penny Thomas (Timothea) brings a razor sharp ferocity of a faithful servant of the Lord whose mind and body is oversaturated in holy water.
Director Rhonda Erbrick paints a layered portrait of a family clouded in dysfunction with love in blossom underneath the storm. Her success as a director is clear by the gasps and teary-eyed moments from the audience. Erbrick gives tight leadership so the actors all soar with fearless abandonment in their performances. Other key elements of the production are the beautifully detailed, and open set of the family house by Erbrick and Josh Roberts. The large space was consistently filled with the stage presence of emotional performances. If the design was smaller, it would not of resonated so effectively.
Theatre Downtown performance of "Yellow" is a casserole of theatrical gold well worth going back for seconds. It's emotionally filling and perfectly seasoned with an amazing cast.
"Yellow" by Del Shores
Directed by Rhonda Erbrick
Dayne - Ben Herbert | Bobby - Tim Seale | Kate - Brooke Wood | Gracie - Mea Allen
Kendall - David Parker | Sister Timothea - Penny Thomas
August 1 - 18th (Special closing matinee on August 18th)
Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays 8pm
Theatre Downtown. 2410 5th Ave S, (in Fifth Ave Antiques) Birmingham, AL.
Tickets and more info at theatredowntown.org or at (205) 565- 8838
Photo Credit - Steven Ross