Review: ‘Yellow’ at New Conservatory Theatre Center (***)

(Charles Kruger)

(Rating: ***)

This reviewer is a voting associate member of the San Francisco Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle (SFBATCC)
This reviewer is a voting associate member of the San Francisco Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle (SFBATCC)

(“Yellow” plays at the New Conservatory Theatre Center through March 23, 2014.)

Playwright Del Shores is well known to gay theatre fans for his comic southern gothic gay themed plays such as “Daddy’s Dyin’: Who’s Got The Will” (over 3,000 productions and a feature film) and “Southern Baptist Sissies”which won a GLAAD award and has been much produced in gay communities nationwide. Mr. Shores is an accomplished writer with numerous television and film credits, and his plays have received a number of regional awards.

It is no surprise, then, that “Yellow” is quite a well written, if rather conventional tear jerker about a loving southern family (the play is set in Vicksburg, Mississippi) whose eldest child Dayne, a high school football star, develops a life-threatening liver disease. A less conventional wrinkle is that Dayne’s  younger sister, aspiring actress Gracie, has a best friend, gay musical lover Kendall, who harbors an obvious crush on Dayne. Although young Kendall is closeted, even to himself, his religiously fanatic mother senses his difference and throws him out of her home, after which he is taken in by Gracie, Dayne and parents Bobby and Timothea.

Damion Matthews as Dayne and Maurice André San-Chez as Kendall in "Yellow" at New Conservatory Theatre Center.  Photo Credit: Lois Tema.
Damion Matthews as Dayne and Maurice André San-Chez as Kendall in “Yellow” at New Conservatory Theatre Center. Photo Credit: Lois Tema.

Gay audiences will be touched by this loving southern family, headed by a football coach and his therapist wife, whose hearts are all in the right place. Andrew Nance as Bobby, the father struggling with his son’s illness, is very convincing as the coach with a heart of gold, well supported by Linsay Rousseau as his wife Timothea. The best work, though, is by the actors playing the three teenagers: siblings Gracie and Dayne, and Gracie’s flamboyant friend Kendall. Ali Haas makes her Bay Area debut as Gracie, and her sullen teenage actress, obsessed with Meryl Streep, is a very funny turn with surprising depths. Damion Matthews in his professional debut as football star Dayne is also outstanding. He manages to achieve a fine balance of comedy and pathos, without being oversentimental or silly. The handsome Matthews also more than adequately provides the beefcake element that is (happily) almost de rigeur at the New Conservatory.

The story is complex with various plot strands including Kendall’s struggles with his unsympathetic mother, Gracie’s self doubts about her acting, and an unexpectedly complex history between Kendall’s mother and Gracie and Dayne’s parents.

The character of Timothea, Kendall’s mother, presents a difficulty in this production. As played by Linsay Rousseau, she is a less-than-realistic caricature of religious fanaticism and this approach to the role throws the production off-kilter. It is difficult to know whether to lay the blame on the playwright, the director or the actress, but it is a serious misstep. Although the character is religious, she does not need to be a shallow freak. The character is intially presented so one-dimensionally that when she later reveals depth of feeling and greater nuance of intellect, it is unconvincing.

Despite its flaws, ‘Yellow’ does a good job of touching and entertaining an audience. The story of a loving family with a possibly dying son is movingly portrayed. The various complications are interesting, and the gay-themed subplot will appeal to fans of the New Conservatory Theatre Center.

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“Yellow” by Del Shores, produced by New Conservatory Theatre Center. Director: Ed Decker. Set: Kuo-Hao Lo. Lighting: Christian Mejia. Costumes: Wes Crain. Sound: Teddy Hulsker. Properties: Daniel Yellin.

Gracie: Ali Haas. Dayne: Damino Matthews. Bobby: Andrew Nance. Timothea: Linsay Rousseau. Kendall: Maurice André San-Chez. Kate: Dana Zook.

Voice Over Cast:

Specialist: Will Giammona. Football Announcer & Minister: Chris Morell. Doctor: Ben Randle. Mrs. Lane: Stephanie Temple.


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