note: entire contents copyright 2004 by Carl A. Rossi
Alma … Adrienne D. Williams
Eugene … Dorian Christian Baucum
Dael Orlandersmith’s YELLOWMAN, a 2002 Pulitzer finalist, touches on a seldom-discussed topic: racial prejudice among African-Americans based on the shade of their own skins; two South Carolinians --- Eugene, light-skinned; Alma, dark-skinned --- meet in the 1960s as schoolchildren. As they grow and pass through friendship and into romance they are torn apart by a rainbow of hatred from family and friends as well as their own inner battles: Alma feels she is ugly; Eugene is ashamed of not being black enough. He descends to tragedy; she ascends to self-acceptance. YELLOWMAN is told in alternating monologues on a bare stage and seems less a drama than a lengthy audition with two actors who will not take “no” for an answer (even the lovers’ shy first kiss is described rather than reenacted) --- a burning subject is not enough; Ms. Orlandersmith should have shown more, told less, of her engrossing tale.
Lois Roach, who directed the award-winning Lyric production of THE OLD SETTLER, keeps two bodies and many words flowing on the New Rep stage but the production’s strength rests on Adrienne D. Williams, new to me and most welcome, who possesses numerous colors on her palette to create a warm, appealing Alma and her earthy, tragicomic mother. Dorian Christian Baucum, in contrast, continues to bellow and strut in the same hard, exact manner as I have seen him do in the past and at this stage of his career seems incapable of tenderness or vulnerability (what does Ms. Williams’ Alma see in his Eugene, other than his fairness?). Despite his acclaim, Mr. Baucum has fallen into an actor’s trap: he has become predictable.