Feb 28, 2005
Is race a zero-sum game? In other words, does the building up of one color necessarily mean the diminishment of another? It's more complicated than that, certainly—and yet the feeling of holding or losing ground, of a racial pecking order with only winners and losers, seems to persist in our hearts, despite the infinite shadings and individual experiences that would seem to mitigate the whole notion of racial destiny.
Such are a few of the thoughts provoked by YELLOWMAN, which I saw today at the Fountain Theatre and can't recommend strongly enough.
Interestingly, the playwright, Dael Orlandersmith (pictured above) is about to open a new play, Raw Boys, at Wilma Theatre in New York. A story about Irish and Puerto Rican immigrants set in Belfast, South London, and New York, it's her first play with no African-American characters. But it does, according to this report, deal with the playwright's persistent themes of family dysfunction, class, power, sexuality, heavy drinking, and what can only be called race—after all, as my Irish friends have explained, the Catholic/Protestant conflict in Northern Ireland is at bottom as racial as it is religious, despite there being no "color line."
It's easy for me, as a white Protestant male, to stand outside issues of race bemusedly and wonder what the fuss is about. It's thanks to playwrights like Orlandersmith that I, and theatregoers both like and unlike me, can feel our way into dilemmas of race that may be beyond our imagining. And it's thanks to the Fountain Theatre, I must add, which programs first-rate African-American plays with reliable regularity, that L.A. audiences are privy to definitive productions like this Yellowman.
Posted by Rob Weinert-Kendt at 2:45 AM