Del Shore's new play, Yellow, premiered over the weekend at the Coast Playhouse. This family comedy-drama studies the mores and traditions of the Deep South, perhaps the country's most extreme forms of religiosity and homophobia, which have been haunting the playwright for all these years. Set in Vicksburg, Mississippi, Shores' new play takes the prodigal, sports-hero son (Luke McClure) of a very appealing couple, Bobby and Kate Westmoreland (David Cowgill and Kristen McCullough), both in their 40s, and he gives the high-school boy a rare liver disease -- terminal unless the family can find an organ donor in time. Yes, you're right, this idea is not funny, unless Shores' plan is to parody Lifetime movies, which it's not. It¹s the stuff of soap opera or, on a good day, tragedy. Or, actually, on a bad day. Strangely enough, Yellow, is neither tragedy nor soap opera; its "disease-of-the-week" dimension surges between the two along a riptide of sentimentality. It comes accompanied by Dayne¹s cloyingly jealous younger sister, Gracie (Evie Louis Thompson, in a brilliantly comic performance of jaw-dropping solipsism and belligerence), who¹s forced to dabble in at least the margins of civility (if not humanity) by grappling with her brother's disease. And that dabbling is part of Shores¹ sentimental formula. That said, Yellow is a rippingly entertaining show, thanks largely to Shores' precision-bombing satire of self-absorbed teenagers and drama clubs. ("She's an amateur, a marginal talent," Kendall says, like John Simon, of the girl who got the lead in the high school production of Oklahoma). Add Shores' own direction of what may be the finest ensemble on a local stage so far this year. Robert Steinberg's living room/veranda set features a periphery of pillars with ivy slithering up. Old Miss. Might as well be Ancient Greece. Tradition unyielding. Sacrifice and salvation. Shores has constructed Yellow on such pillars, trying to fathom what it means to be human, of whether that enduring quality is made of flesh or marble. Coast Playhouse, 8325 Santa Monica Blvd., West Hollywood; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 & 7 p.m.; through July 25. yellowbydelshores.com.
Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 & 7 p.m. Starts: June 11. Continues through June 27, 2010