At last, a family that isn’t dysfunctional! A mother and father still romantically in love after 19 years of marriage. A footballl hero son who is their pride and joy. A young daughter, a high school drama queen with lots of the usual teenage issues, and her best friend, a sweet, gay young man whom they shelter when his own mother disowns him.
The play is “Yellow,” written and directed by Del Shores, and currently extending its world premiere engagement at the Coast Playhouse in response to public and critical acclaim. And it’s well-deserved acclaim, I might add.
The play itself is gripping, but it is made even more engaging by its actors, who are unfailingly terrific. Robert Lewis Stephenson, as the father, Bobby Westmoreland, is a happy-go-lucky high school football coach. His wife, Kate (Kristen McCullough), is a psychotherapist. The kids, Dayne (Luke McClure) and Gracie (Evie Louise Thompson) are appropriately rambunctious. But even in this talented ensemble, Matthew Scott Montgomery is a standout. Playing Kendall Parker, the gay would-be thespian, he is charming, awkward, socially inept, and timid. As the third kid in the Westmoreland home, he plays most of his scenes with his mouth hanging open in amazement at the family’s antics.
You can understand why when you meet his termagant of a mother. A confirmed Jesus freak, she speaks only in Bible and pours pious venom on everyone she encounters. She is toxic, especially to Kendall, whom she insists on calling “Matthew Mark.” She also calls herself “Sister Timothea.” As played by the excellent Susan Leslie, Sister Timothea is a hand grenade waiting to explode.
But the Westmoreland family explodes first. When a rare and life-threatening illness strikes one of them, it opens a Pandora’s box of secrets and lies, tearing the family apart.
Robert Steinberg has designed a dollhouse of a set: living room, dining room, bedroom and wrap-around ivy-pillared porch. The costumes by Craig Taggart reflect the tastes of rural Mississippi: both Bobby and Dayne wear “Ole’ Miss” shirts, and Sister Timothea is respectably frumpy. Drew Dalzell and Mark Johnson have also done well with the sound design: crowd noises and the offstage voice of the doctor move the plot along without diverting scene changes, so the house remains intact as the actors move in and out.
And Del Shores has done a superb job of directing his ensemble, making sure there is plenty of light humor along with the intense emotions. All in all, a very satisfying visit to the theatre.
“Yellow” will continue at the Coast Playhouse, 8325 Santa Monica Blvd., in West Hollywood, Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. through Oct. 17. Call (800) 595-4849 for tickets.
Cynthia Citron can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.