“Chinese American Republican Bankers for Bill Clinton” is only one of many hilarious lines in the “mockumentary” Pulitzer Prize nominated play “Yellow Face” by David Henry Hwang, now playing at the Richard Hugo House in Capitol Hill. Yellow Face is what you call it when a Caucasian plays an Asian, like the white Al Jolson in “Black” Face.
This semi-autobiographical play uses the interactions of the two main characters, David Henry Hwang, the author of M. Butterfly, and Marcus, a white actor who pretends to be Asian, to expose the ambiguities in the Ethnic Identity movement. The author set this discussion during the casting and rehearsal of his flop “Face Value, during the protests surrounding the casting of a Caucasian as an Asian in the Broadway production of Miss Saigon, as well as during the FBI investigations of Asian-American political donations in the late 1990’s. The chronological structure of these three events created an extremely dramatic suspenseful play.
The dialogue is some of the funniest and most articulate ever written for the stage. The direction and the acting suited the script extremely well, the comic timing was superb and the inherent tragedy came through. As an ensemble piece, most of the actors rapidly changed characters several times and had to adopt different accents and physicality. Jeremy Behrens, who played a lot of different Caucasian media pundits and politicians, was brilliant and managed to pull off a British, Russian, Brooklynese and about five different Southern accents in the same play.
Henry Vu, as the Republican banker first- generation American Chinese father, was extremely convincing using a slight Chinese accent, the physicality of someone 40 years older, without making it seem like a ridiculous stereotype. The scenes between David Henry Hwang, played by Moses Yim, and his father mostly take place over the telephone, and were both uproariously funny, and very touching as the father expressed his motivation for immigrating and his pride in the success he found here.
Seattle audiences will be treated to a “talk-back” session with author David Henry Hwang after the Saturday August 13th performance. Seriously it would be a good idea to run to the telephone (or computer) and make a reservation right now because this show is very likely to be sold out.
“Yellow Face” a joint production of Pork Filled Players and the Repertory Actors Theatre ( ReACT) August 5 to Sept. 3. Fridays at 8:00 pm, Saturdays at 2:00 pm and 8:00 pm. Directed by David Hsieh. Richard Hugo House, 1643 11th Ave. Seattle, WA. www.brownpapertickets.com/event/181433