By Ronald B. Hellman
I was hoping that someone would write a preview about The Outrageous Fortune Company’s production of “Yellow Face,” but it looks like I’m going to have to do it myself. Hey, we gained an hour, I got some time.
“Yellow Face,” by David Henry Hwang, won an Obie Award for playwriting in the 2007âˆ’08 season when it was produced at the Public Theater in the East Village. Hwang’s best known play is “M. Butterfly,” the Tony Awardâˆ’winner for best play on Broadway in 1988. A comedy about racial identity, “Yellow Face” is brought to life by a diverse cast of four men and four women, representing some of the great variety of Queens, a county with perhaps the most diverse population in the world.
Directed by the experienced Sofia Landon Geier, the strong cast includes Scarlett Ahmed, Tom Ashton, Ray Chao, Jennifer Gegan, Jade Justad, Fenton Li, Anastasia Morsucci and Howard L. Wieder. Like most OFC productions, this play will both entertain and enlighten. Due to its provocative and timely nature, four questionâˆ’andâˆ’answer sessions, instead of the usual one, will be held after performances, hosted by guest moderators from the community. And the playwright is expected to attend.
“Yellow Face” is written as a mock documentary — many real life people are characters in the play, including the playwright himself and his father, who was a prominent banker. When the musical “Miss Saigon” was brought to New York in the 1990s, the major role of the Engineer, a Eurasian, was to be played by Jonathan Pryce, a white actor, who played the role in London. Many Asians protested this casting choice, including Hwang himself, but they eventually lost out.
Some years later Hwang writes a play called “Face Value” requiring an Asian actor. But, as depicted in “Yellow Face”, Hwang casts a white actor in that role — by mistake! Thus the questions of “what are you” and “what do we think you are” become the central issues of the play.
Although I may be somewhat biased — yes, I will admit to having hyped a few shows that may not have been brilliant — “Yellow Face” is a lot of fun, will give you lots to think about, and is a definite mustâˆ’see. And wonder of wonders, tickets are selling quickly, and I’m told that a couple of performances are already sold out. There are only 90 seats in the theater, so act accordingly and check our listings for the details.
Contact Ron Hellman at RBH24@Columbia.edu