Yellowman, the latest work by OBIE-winning playwright-performer Dael Orlandersmith, has chosen its New York home. Manhattan Theatre Club will produce the show on its mainstage, "probably as the first show" of the season, according to a Boneau/Bryan-Brown press office spokesperson (Feb. 15).
Before that, Yellowman will play Philadelphia's Wilma Theater Feb. 13-March 17, officially opening Feb. 20 — the second in its four-theatre tour of the U.S. The two-hander recently closed at Princeton’s McCarter Theatre, where reviews were sanguine. After the Wilma, it travels to New Haven’s Long Wharf Theatre before making its final stop at Seattle’s A Contemporary Theatre.
Director Blanka Zizka, who is also co-artistic director of the Wilma, had previously told Playbill On-Line that three major Gotham theatres were eyeing the work, but declined to say which ones.
Yellowman takes its title from the skin-tone definition among African Americans, those who are dark skinned and the lighter-skinned persons who are considered "yellow." In the play, dark-skinned Alma (played by Orlandersmith) and light-skinned Eugene feel destined to love one another, if they can overcome their prejudices against each other's color. Orlandersmith also penned Monster and The Gimmick.
The show played McCarter’s second stage Jan. 10-27. The Long Wharf run is April 3-May 12. Zizka said the play may have to be redesigned to fit ACT’s space. McCarter commissioned Yellowman, and originally asked director Marion McClinton to work on the piece with Orlandersmith when the show was workshopped at Utah’s Sundance Festival. However, McClinton was busy at the time, and Zizka was asked to take over. Following the festival, Orlandersmith requested to continue working with Zizka; McClinton agreed and stepped aside. According to Zizka, she and Orlandersmith have worked on the script for three years and through four drafts.
Zizka will direct the Off-Broadway mounting, which will star the same performers as the regional stagings: Orlandersmith and Howard Overshown.
MTC is currently offering the critically lambasted Further Than the Furthest Thing on its mainstage and the strongly anticipated re mounting of Four on Stage II.
—By David Lefkowitz
and Robert Simonson