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Shores Creates a Bright Yellow Day for Theatregoers

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Yellow
written and directed by Del Shores
Coast Playhouse
through July 25

No writer knows how to grab hold of an audience, especially a gay one, and make them laugh and cry quite like Del Shores. Southern Baptist Sissies, Sordid Lives, and the more mainstream Trials and Tribulations of a Trailer Trash Housewife - all period pieces - are but three of this prolific writer's major triumphs. We may now add Yellow to the list. Unlike other Shores works, Yellow, with its references to Meryl Streep and TV's Glee, is now. Deeply engrossing with familiar and absorbing characters, the play's drama , like life, runs its course without ever losing its infectious sense of humor.

The Westmorelands of Vicksburg, Mississippi are a contemporary close-knit family. Coach Bobby (David Cowgill) and therapist Kate (Kristen McCullough) are the happy parents and Dayne (Luke McClure) and Gracie (Evie Louise Thompson) the sibling kids whose normal everyday lives, particularly in today's mixed-up, crazy world, seem more than desirable. Then there's sweet gay Kendall (Matthew Mark) Parker (Matthew Scott Montgomery), Gracie's friend, and his bible-thomping mother Sister Timothea (Susan Leslie), who, like Piper Laurie's character mother in Carrie, gives new meaning to intolerance and family dysfunction. Out of the blue tragedy strikes the Westmorelands, and the crux of the action of the play is how everyone copes in the light of son Dayne's fatal illness. Along with the tragedy come heretofore hidden secrets, that if disclosed to everyone, could hasten the boy's demise.

The ensemble, as in all Shores plays, is stellar. McCullough and Leslie as the two very different mothers are riveting at every second as they deal with the crises. Cowgill stands tall and formidable throughout. Montgomery as Kendall is a loveable mensch, whose fiercely independeant self-acceptance sets him apart. He is funny, warm and totally engaging. Thompson as Gracie the typically rebellious, insecure drama-queen is just wonderful. She shrills and shrieks for attention, and her closing tribute to her brother is dynamically heartfelt. McClure as Dayne is just right as the soft-spoken, very masculine Dayne, who is so proud to be his father's son. Shore's direction of the cast is astounding, as they work brilliantly together and separately, with no one ever stealing the spotlight away from anyone else. Most writers should not direct their own work, but Shores certainly knows what he's doing and never needs a third eye.

A terrific example of how humor serves so well as comic relief comes in the midst of a heated parental confrontation between Kate and Bobby when Kendall tells Gracie "Let's remember all this. We can draw on it in our acting".
The nonsexual bedroom scene before the finale is a beautifully crafted one between Kendall and Dayne. Although I disagree with the kiss, it does work well theatrically and stands apart as a near-to-perfect acting scene. If I were to change anything it would be the ending - for Bobby and Kate and even for Sister Timothea - that for me is unrealistically tidy, but... Shores knows his audience quite well and therefore, how to please them.

RoBert Steinberg's angular set design of the exterior and two-leveled interior of the Westmoreland home is one of the best to be seen at the Coast in many a year.

Yellow is a first-rate, well-crafted drama that both entertains and inspires hope...and boy, do we need it!


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