|Mediocre theatre sucks. This thought is one I have preached for a long time and, therefore, feel compelled to stand by the statement. What sucks for me, personally, as a huge fan of playwright Del Shores, is having to say that the premiere of his new play, Yellow, at the Coast Playhouse was mediocre… which means it sucks, really. Oh painful day. I can’t bear to say the words…
Del Shores has an amazing following and fan base, because he is a gifted playwright. Having such talent allows him to summons fantastic ensembles of loyal actors willing to take part in any new work he may have on the table. You may be familiar with some of his most popular works: Sordid Lives, Southern Baptist Sissies, and The Trials and Tribulations of a Trailer Trash Housewife. He’s a genius, and I’ll shout it from the mountaintops. I had heard the warnings that Yellow was a different sort of play than his usual comedies filled with Southern kooks and religious whackos. I wasn’t intimidated. He can do no wrong. Err…
Yellow is the story of the practically perfect Westmoreland family residing in Vicksburg, Mississippi. The practically perfect football coach Bobby, and therapist Kate, (Robert Lewis Stephenson and Kristen McCullough) are the parents of the practically perfect star football player Dayne, (Luke McClure) and aspiring theatre actor Gracie, (Caroline Shores). Only, you guessed it, the family isn’t really that perfect. Their imperfection is brought to light and magnified when tragedy strikes and their star athlete falls ill. Secrets are revealed and stress and strain abound. This play is about the human condition, forgiveness, caring for one another, and love… with conditions, and without.
The play’s minor characters are the shining stars. There’s Gracie’s gay best friend, Kendall (Matthew Scott Montgomery) who shares her affinity for musical theatre. Between the two of them, you won’t want to watch anyone else. Kendall’s uber religious and conservative mother (Susan Leslie) spends her time quoting scripture and disowning her son; not a terribly redeemable woman, and yet a scene-stealer as well. The cast as a whole is good. These three are remarkable. Mr. Shores directed (yes, directed) a tight play. The pace was good, which was a beautiful thing, because the play is long… (and by that I mean, it should be cut). The set design (Robert Steinberg) and lighting (Kathi O’Donohue) were a-ok. Really… it was all A-OK. Why then would I go to putting this in the land of mediocrity, which by personal philosophy definition amounts to a production that sucks? How do I get there?
I think being a huge Del Shores fan seeing this show can lead one down two possible paths. You will either love it, because it’s a solid… ok, good show. Not one of his best and a break from his norm, most everyone will agree. But you’ll love it because you love Del. Or… you can go down the more disillusioned path that I went down, and that was the path of disappointment in mediocrity. My standards for Del Shores are higher than for other playwrights. A fair to good play is not the goal for a genius. Through eyes with no preconceptions and basic expectations, it’s a good play. Go see it. Through the eyes of someone who expects more, you will see an average play that anyone with some talent could have written, with only tidbits of the “special and unique” that is Del Shores. Tiny glimpses were not enough for me. Anyone could have written this play; therefore, I left wanting much, much more.
Go see it for yourself. Go see it if you have never seen a Del Shores play… and commit to seeing another in the future, so as not to continue to underestimate or undervalue this artist. Go if you are a long time fan… and support, because it’s always a good thing. You’ll leave all the more excited for his next work, which will surely be better, because HE is better.
8325 Santa Monica Boulevard
West Hollywood, CA
Now extended through Oct 17th
$30-$35 if you get there by Sept 5th… $50-$60 after that (but keep your eyes peeled for discount tickets. They are out there.)