|(Forefront) Jeffrey Sun, John Pendergast, and (Background): Alfonso Faustino, Lisa Gaye Tomlinson and Jennifer Vo Le|
Henry David Hwang’s autobiographical treatise on race and the definition of just what exactly is an ‘Asian’ was first produced through East West Players in conjunction with the Mark Taper Forum in the spring of 2007. After a run at the Taper the play went to The Public Theatre in New York City and more recently to San Francisco. On the page, Yellow Face has moments that made me laugh out loud. On the stage, a slightly different story. HDH’s reputation as a playwright expands in this wonky presentational production to be true to “proper casting” ie. Asians in Asian roles.
Jeffrey Sun as HDH and Roman Moretti as Marcus retain their singular roles while the rest of the cast takes on the remaining supporting parts. The play guides us step by step through the business of the bruhaha in 1990 regarding Cameron McIntosh's production of Miss Saigon and the casting of an Anglo actor, Jonathan Pryce, in that show which HDH reacted to with strong criticism. It then evolves in time to the troubles that he, himself faces when casting for his own production of a comedy, Face Value, a farce that is a comic take on the casting of Anglos in Asian roles. Reference to this failed show is noted by presenting two of the actual stars, Jane Kazmerick (Lisagaye Tomlinson) and Mark Linn Baker (possibly Dennis Nolette) who comment on the social aspects of success.
Strong presentations by Jennifer Vo Le, Nollette, Tomlinson and especially John Pendergast as the Announcer / “Name Withheld On Advice of Council” are commendable, if somewhat over the top from time to time. I loved the tete a tete between HDH and NWOAC: a dance of power with the reporter saying he has all he needs to write a story about the playwright and HDH smiling that he has enough of the reporter to write his play that includes him! The reporter threatens to sue, thus.. his name is withheld on 'advice of counsel.'
Director Robert Zimmerman sets the stage efficiently with seven bentwood chairs and actors to fill them. The play moves off and on through the Fourth Wall with pace taking a nose dive when Alfanso Faustino has his turn as HDH’s father, HYH, and other characters including BD Wong. Though Faustino’s characterizations are heart felt, the play grinds to a snail’s pace, making the rest of the cast struggle to move things up to speed again.
Yellow Face by Henry David Hwang
Beverly Hills Playhouse
254 S. Robertson Blvd.
Beverly Hills, CA 90212
Through September 26, 2018
Friday and Saturday at 8PM
Sundays at 2PM
Tickets and information: