Yellowface

Leigh Kennicott Reviews - Theater
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This ingenious play, now on view at The Beverly Hills Playhouse, has a long track record, having debuted at The Mark Taper Forum 10 years ago with subsequent productions in New York City and London.

Yellowface is a half-autobiographical, half-fantasy about Hwang’s fight for casting equity when Miss Saigon came to New York from London, retaining non-Asian casting in a key role. The play relates how Hwang (as DHH, played here by Jeffrey Sun) encounters difficulties in casting his own play, the fictional Face Value. Mistaking the charismatic Marcus G. Dahlman (Roman Moretti) for an Asian of mixed ancestry, he becomes embroiled in an elaborate cover-up that is overturned when Marcus, now Marcus Gee, returns from his first visit to a Dong village in China as an enthusiastic cultural convert.

Despite the obvious moral dilemma of the cover-up. Hwang asks his audience to unpack what, exactly, cultural and ethnic identities mean. Are they inherent or constructed? The answer hangs over this tantalizing play without offering a clear answer.

For this rendition of the play, Director Robert Zimmerman brings together an ensemble that interweaves skillfully, playing multiple characters between past and present, “reality” and fiction. Remounted from its San Francisco production by Firescape Theatre and Yolk Productions, this Yellowface remains an entertaining and thought-provoking ride. Alphonso Faustino is touching as DHH’s aging father, while Dennis Nollette and Lisagaye Tomlinson provide ballast for the rest of the cast that includes Jennifer Vo Le and John Pendergast. The uncredited, simple scaffolding backdrop provides an ideal foil for quickly intercutting scenes, and minimal lighting functions cinematically to move the action between now and then.

Ten years have past since Hwang began to investigate the subjectivity and fluidity of Asian identity, and since that time gender identities have joined the conversation. Yet these are still difficult concepts, and this production engenders a perfect opportunity to exercise one’s own ethical muscles.

The Beverly Hills Playhouse in association with Firescape Theatre and Yolk Productions presents Yellowface, playing Fridays and Saturdays at 8:00 pm, Sundays at 2:00 pm  through September 26th, 2018.  Reserve tickets at 411.com at $30.00; $20.00 for seniors and students.  Find the Beverly Hills Playhouse at 254 S. Robertson Blvd. in Beverly Hills, 90211.