Audio Podcast at ITUNES Chicago Theatre Reviews for Week of June 23rd Narrated by Joshua Volkers
Silk Road Theatre, in association with Goodman Theatre, presentsYELLOW FACEReviewed by Katy WalshAn actor becomes an ambassador for the Asian community. He uses his celebrity status to draw attention to the government’s unethical scrutiny of Chinese-Americans. Speaking as an actor of color, he instigates a collective empowerment movement. The only problem is he’s 100% caucasian. Silk Road Theatre, in association with Goodman Theatre, presents the Chicago premiere of YELLOW FACE. Playwright David Henry Hwang makes himself the main character in a culturally insensitive farce. It’s the 1990’s. Hwang has recently earned a Tony for his play, “M. Butterfly.” Being the only Asian playwright ever bestowed that honor, Hwang is a cultural icon. A London-based musical, “Miss Saigon” is coming to Broadway starring Jonathan Pryce. The only problem is he’s 100% caucasian. The Asian lead is being played by a white guy with taped eyes. The incident forces Hwang to become a spokesperson for preserving the integrity of Asian roles through the ethical treatment of Asian actors. Following his theatrical controversy, Hwang accidentally casts a white as his play’s Asian lead. Even though Hwang remedies the delicate situation, his mistake typecasts the actor. And to Hwang’s absurd misery, the actor embraces his new minority identity. YELLOW FACE is masking reality with colorful lunacy. Hwang masterfully creates a ‘what if’ alternative reality. The character Hwang is the flustered straight guy in a whirlwind of absurdities. Hwang chronicles snippets of truths alongside the rise and fall of Asian-influenced Marcus Ghee. The politically-incorrect satire pokes fun of every group: unscrupulous media, over-zealous protest groups, dim-witted politicians, and well-intentioned but non-listening fathers. The best part of the ridicule is Hwang’s own self-deprecation as an ego-inflated writer obsessed with his own creation. Director Steve Scott paces the mockery with a fast, lyrical rhythm. A talented ensemble play a myriad of characters. It’s blind-casting-spoofery as the ensemble transforms from one role to another without regard for gender or ethnicity. Scott skillfully choreographs the high-energy movement for optimal comedy.
In the lead, David Rhee (Hwang) is the focal point. Rhee narrates the culturally sensitive lesson with healthy doses of confidence, vulnerability and buffoonery. Rhee chasing the accidental ethnic tourist is a hilarious fixation. Later, Rhee’s interaction with Joseph Anthony Foronda (Hwang’s dad) endears with a sweet vulnerability. Although Foronda plays many parts, he is most outstanding in the paternal role. The humorous relationship feels authentic father and son. It’s a loving mixture of pride and wanting something more.
On the surface, YELLOW FACE is an entertaining political parody. The dialogue engages with sharp wit. The premise mulls over embracing or ignoring ethnic differences. Being “politically-correct” becomes it’s own joke. At face value, this show is about cultural identity. Remove the mask and at the heart of YELLOW FACE, Playwright Hwang wrote a beautifully complicated and charming tribute to his father.Running Time: Two hours and fifteen minutes includes an intermissionAt The Historic Chicago Temple Building, 77 W. WashingtonWritten by David Henry HwangDirected by Steve ScottWednesdays and Thursdays at 7:30pmFridays and Saturdays at 8pmSaturdays and Sundays at 4pmEXTENDED THRU July 31stBuy Tickets