Review: Theatre Raleigh's YELLOW FACE

Theatre Raleigh's first production in their black box space is...

By: Jul. 01, 2022

Review: Theatre Raleigh's YELLOW FACE Yellow Face follows Asian-American playwright DHH. Fresh off his Tony Award win for M. Butterfly, he leads a protest against the casting of Jonathan Pryce as the Eurasian pimp in the original Broadway production of Miss Saigon, condemning the practice as "yellowface." His position soon comes back to haunt him when he mistakes a Caucasian actor, Marcus G. Dahlman, for mixed-race, and casts him as the lead Asian role of his own Broadway-bound comedy, Face Value. When DHH discovers the truth of Marcus' ethnicity, he tries to conceal his blunder to protect his reputation as an Asian-American role model by passing the actor off as a "Siberian Jew."

This happens to be a semi-autobiographical work for playwright David Henry Hwang as a lot of what happened in the story is inspired by what happened to him in real-life. Yellow Face originally premiered at the Mark Taper Forum in association with East West Players in Los Angeles, California back in May of 2007. The play later opened at Off-Broadway's Public Theater on December 1oth of that year. It ended up winning Hwang his third Obie Award in playwriting and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for Drama for the third time.

At the helm of this production currently running inside the Theatre Raleigh Studio through July 3rd is Telly Leung. He's an actor with 7 Broadway credits to his name, which includes his debut in the ensemble of a 2002 revival of Rodgers & Hammerstein's Flower Drum Song, which just so happened to have had a revised book by David Henry Hwang. The show runs about two hours and 15 minutes (with an intermission), and Telly keeps everything pacd very well. Charlie Raschke's lighting designs are so inventively used. The soundscape design by Eric Alexander Collins has quite a few standout moments (you'll know them when your hear them).

Hansel Tan gives such a strong willed performance as DHH, who is of course supposed to be David Henry Hwang. Liam Yates, who has taken over for Pascal Pastrana for the remainder of the run, works really well as Marcus G. Dahlman. The relationship between DHH and Marcus G. takes quite a journey throughout the play, and it is so fascinating to watch unfold. Everyone else in the seven-person cast portrays multiple characters and provides narration. Among the people depicted in the story are actresses Jane Krakowski and Lily Tomlin (both played by Ali Evarts) as well as producers Cameron Mackintosh and Stuart Ostrow (both by Brook North). Interestingly enough, none of the actors are made to look like those real-life figures. Although they at least do accents, which I think is plenty. The standout to me was Alan Ariano as DHH's father, HYH, who especially shares some moving scenes with Hansel Tan in the second act. I also really liked Kylie Robinson as Korean-American actress Leah Anne Cho. She too shares some great scenes with Tan in Act II.

David Henry Hwang has not only written a compelling play about a very important topic, but it's also funny in all the right places. Yellow Face perfectly explores how far we've come in show business regarding white performers playing characters who are supposed to be people of color. Rather than having them pretend to be some other ethnicity in makeup, they get as close to the truth as possible by having actual people of color play their actual ethnicity. Theatre Raleigh's production of Yellow Face concludes its run this Sunday, and I think you should check it out if you can.


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From This Author - Jeffrey Kare

Jeffrey Kare currently resides in Raleigh, North Carolina. Having been born and raised in Northeast Ohio, Jeffrey took interest in live theater at age 11. He also had the great pleasure of seeing show... Jeffrey Kare">(read more about this author)


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