By Catherine Wagley
By Channing Sargent
By L.A. Weekly critics
By Amanda Lewis
By Catherine Wagley
By Carol Cheh
By Keegan Hamilton
By Bill Raden
Things get really interesting late in Yellow Facewhen the feds start investigating influence peddling by the Chinese government in U.S. elections, sucking DHH, his banker father and Marcus into a Senate investigation. Here’s “yellow peril” back in contemporary America, spewing out the same stereotypes that gave rise to identity politics in the first place. Round and round we go, whether it’s Asians or Persians or Jews.
In some ways, Hwang may be too clever for his play’s own good. I don’t care much what Hwang or his doppelgänger have to say about identity politics anymore — not because they’ve reversed their views, but because Hwang, to his credit, has been so daringly truthful about DHH’s foibles. Using the “fiction is more persuasive than fact” argument, I take DHH’s willingness to do and say almost anything to save face as qualities that reside in Hwang’s own soul. When DHH becomes a board member in his father’s bank only because he gets paid to attend meetings, and when DHH later blathers to the feds about joining the bank to help his community, I get the joke. I also get that DHH is a bit of a con artist. Why should I take him, or the views of the author he’s standing in for, at face value? All of which makes the identity politics swirling throughout Yellow Facesomething of a mirage.
Yellow Faceis actually about a man staring at his reflection in a river, trying to fathom, with blazing honesty, the illusion of flesh, and face, and what truths those illusions might contain. And this is the search for authenticity that I love most about Hwang’s play. Director Leigh Silverman knows this too, because designer David Korins’ set contains, as its centerpiece, a huge, freestanding mirror in a gilded frame. Sometimes the mirror contains neon electrical circuits, during cell-phone calls. It’s at its most powerful, however, when simply reflecting the seven actors from the stage. Her staging is obvious, the humor pumped up and the performances energetic, more faithful to the play than to the multifaceted dynamics of a theatrical event.
Yet the play itself is a remarkable, shape-shifting accomplishment. Narcissus flowers grow along riverbanks, it’s said, so their blooms can lean over and observe their reflections in the tide. More often than not in art, such introspection emerges as self-indulgent piffle, but here, you can see worlds of politics and dreams swirling in the water.
YELLOW FACE | By DAVID HENRY HWANG | Presented by CENTER THEATRE GROUP and THE PUBLIC THEATER, in association with EAST WEST PLAYERS at the MARK TAPER FORUM, 135 N. Grand Ave., downtown | Through July 1 | (213) 628-2772 or www.taperahmanson.org