Greenetree’s production of Dael Orlandersmith’s drama The Yellow Man, skillfully directed by Jonathan Wilson, is outstanding. Run, don’t walk, to Stage 773 to experience the magic Israel Greene (Gene) and Deanne K. Reed (Alma) generate as they portray a series of small-town southerners to expose the impact of skin-color hierarchy on the lives of these African-American characters. Greene is captivating in his depiction of Gene, a fair-skinned African-American whose attraction and love for the seductive Reed as Alma, a large dark-skinned woman, is confronted by their friends’ and families’ color insecurities.
Shaun Renfro’s flawlessly restrained set – a porch supported by empty liquor bottles – is the ideal platform to bear these burdened characters. The audience watches the development of Gene and Alma’s relationship as the couple struggle to reject the boundaries of their skin color. In an attempt to escape becoming her mother, Alama moves to New York to pursue a college degree. Her transformation from small-town girl to big city sophisticate is fittingly framed with costumes by Jaren Merrell. And her superstar talent is confirmed in a charming scene where she glides through New York, transporting the audience from Manhattan to Chinatown with the sway of her hips.
The acting dynamic duo draws on Orlandersmith’s poetic prose, traditionally reserved for spoken word, to weave in and out characters. Throughout the play there is a buildup and release of tension until the climactic ending when Gene is forced to confront the demons of his father’s head. The play is insightful, funny and extremely well done. Go see it! The Yellow Man, Greenetree Productions Playwright: Dael Orlandersmith’s Director: Jonathan Wilson Where: Stage 773, formerly known as the Theatre Building (1225 W. Belmont). When: September 15-October 9, 2011. The performances are every Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2:00 p.m. Tickets are $15-25 and are currently on sale at http://www.stage773.com or by calling the box office at (773) 327-5252.