Small towns have a particular draw for those who prefer the predictability of daily living. Everyone knows each other, streets are considered safe enough for kids to ride their bikes on unsupervised and usually without the threat of predators and the highlight of the week is usually a high school athletic event with the entire town turning out to cheer for the home team. There’s a peace in the familiar and everyone coalesces around it naturally like a hand in glove.
In Del Shore’s latest stage play “Yellow”, we find this same dynamic at play. Set in Vicksburg, Mississippi, home of the Miss Mississippi Pageant, we find the Westmorelands living a very average, typical small town existence, an existence that will soon turn to horror through Shore’s masterful writing with mortality and relationship woes front and center.
Technical aspects of this play are among the best I have ever seen in a theatre production, from the 2-story house design with rooms so functional that you could actually live in them, an outdoor courtyard that had an eerie Garden of Gethsemane feel to it and served as the backdrop for some important scenes, down to a chandelier hanging from the set ceiling. Scene transitions were very tight and well executed and voiceovers moved the story along at a natural pace.
Where “Yellow” excels compared to other theatre productions is in its acting performances. If there was an image in the dictionary next to the word ‘ensemble’, the “Yellow” cast photo would be prominently displayed, a credit to the individual cast members and Shore’s directing.
The father, Bobby Westmoreland, played by Jeff Plunk with the same great flair as TV dad Alan Thicke as Jason Seaver on the hit 80s show ‘Growing Pains’, is a former NFL hopeful and now high school coach resigned to a family life and living through his son’s athletic abilities. Plunk really displayed his acting chops in the second act with such a depth of emotion that you couldn’t help but to FEEL his pain.
Bobby’s wife Kate, played by the beautiful Kristin McCullough, is a therapist who successfully manages the rigors of work and home life, including being a great mom to her kids, and a vivacious sex kitten to her husband. This was never more apparent than in the opening scenes when Kate shamelessly tries to tempt her husband with the promise of sex. McCullough absolutely SIZZLES here. And her dirty talk is delightful and delicious! Like Plunk, when the story line made an about face in the second act, McCullough’s ability to morph into a state of complete vulnerability was a thrill to watch.
The couple’s children Dayne and Gracie, played by Justin Duncan and Zoe Kerr, are your normal run-of-the-mill teenagers with a typical dose of sibling rivalry. Dayne is a handsome, hunky jock who despite his outward appearance, still deals with some level of insecurity as he navigates his ascension into manhood. While Duncan doesn’t have a lot of stage time relative to the other actors, he effectively maximizes his presence when on stage including moments where he is silent and contemplative.
Kerr embodies her role impetuously as a developing teenage girl trying to find herself, including her obsession with her weight evident by shrieks of angst towards her mom and dad. Declarations like “I’m not eating, I have to lose five pounds by my audition thanks to you and your gene pool” or “if you had been kind enough to pass me your genes instead of just to Dayne, then I wouldn’t have the fuller thunder-thigh problem” had audience members in stitches.
Though not officially a member of the Westmoreland clan, Gracie’s best friend Kendall, played with over-the-top gay panache by Grant Bower, is a main stay at the Westmoreland house, a place he will eventually call his own due to a very tenuous and abusive relationship he has with his ultra religious mother Sister Timothea Parker, played with overbearing appeal by the very talented Deborah Jones. Bower and Jones owned their roles completely and really highlighted the challenges that come with parents accepting children who are gay.
Sister Timothea wears her religion like medieval chest plate as if going to war against a sinning world and will leave no stone unturned. Every time Jones marched around the arch of the stage to go and confront the lowly sinners God had put in her heart to save, one couldn’t help but cringe in fear.
Kendall is a strong young man but still searching for validation, which he receives from the Westmorelands, but more importantly, from Dayne in an unexpected display of affirmation so tender and touching that there wasn’t a dry eye in the house.
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“Yellow” runs through March 10, 2013 at 7:30 pm with a 2 pm Sunday matinee at the Kalita Humphreys Theatre, located at 3636 Turtle Creek Boulevard, Dallas, Texas 75219.
Tickets prices are $25-$35. Contains adult subject matter; may not be suitable for younger audiences. For additional information or to purchase tickets, call 214-219-2718.
The mission of Uptown Players is to present professional theatre that meets a rising demand in the community for audiences to see their life experiences represented on stage.