Remember when actors were the special effects? The OC premiere of Dael Orlandersmith’s Yellowman (at the Chance Theater in Anaheim through Oct. 24) exemplifies what makes live theater so magical, at a pivotal time in this era of pandemic—the art of storytelling, a lost art judging by what the film studios are grinding out these days, is writ large by the stories this Pulitzer nominee tells, and the telling of them.
If you’ve been lucky enough to see Orlandersmith in solo performance, as I have, you know she’s a master craftswoman when it comes to monologues. Here she intertwines two of them to create a vivid coming of age memoir vastly different from the typical play (or film) of that description. And while we’ve seen adults play children before, rarely is the transformation done with such imagination or such captivating results.
Julanne Chidi Hill is nothing short of phenomenal as Alma, a large, dark-skinned African American woman who recalls her Gullah ancestors and their unique culture centered in South Carolina. She commands the stage in a role Orlandersmith originally wrote for herself, with the kind of talent that seems to cry out for a one-woman show.
If the actors are not quite evenly matched, Dante Alexander holds his own as Eugene, a fair-skinned black man seeking his niche in the world. He’s a brave man to share the spotlight with Hill; a lesser actor would be blown right off the stage. Director Khanisha Foster has done an outstanding job of bringing this character-driven play to life, a Herculean challenge considering the atypical lack of interaction between the two characters. www.chancetheater.com; 888-455-4212.
Photo by Doug Catiller, True Image Studio (Dante Alexander and Julanne Chidi Hill).
Also playing in Orange County: Richard Greenberg’s one-man play, A Shot Rang Out, will be performed at South Coast Repertory through Nov. 6… Lauren Gunderson’s Silent Sky, the true story of pioneer astronomer Henrietta Leavitt, is at Costa Mesa Playhouse has through Oct. 17… Ballet X and Parsons Dance Company make their respective Segerstrom Center for the Arts debuts Oct. 16 and Nov. 20.