Tag: Joseph Anthony Foronda

Review: Mahal (Bailiwick Chicago Theater)

Patrick Byrnes and Kevin Matthew Reyes star in the world premiere of Bailiwick Chicago's "Mahal" by Danny Bernardo, directed by Erica Weiss. (photo credit: Michael Brosilow)        
       
Mahal 

Written by Danny Bernardo
Directed by Erica Weiss
at Stage 773, 1225 W. Belmont (map)
thru Aug 2  |  tickets: $35   |  more info
       
Check for half-price tickets 
    
        
        Read entire review
     

July 8, 2013 | 0 Comments More

Review: Yellow Face (Silk Road Theatre Project)

     

Now extended through July 31st!!

     

Silk Road creates compelling, entertaining production

  

Joseph Anthony Foronda, Tanya McBride, David Rhee, Lydia Berger, Christopher Meister and Christopher Popio

   
Silk Road Theatre Project presents
     
Yellow Face
       
Written by David Henry Hwang
Directed by Steve Scott
at Pierce Hall, 77 W. Washington (map)
through July 17 July 31  |  tickets: $34  |  more info

Reviewed by Catey Sullivan

As someone who adored Jonathan Pryce in his Tony-winning turn as the Vietnamese pimp in Miss Saigon, we’re chagrined to admit that the racist implications of having a white actor play an Asian never occurred to us. David Henry Hwang puts the question this way: If it’s not OK to put a white actor in blackface to play Boy Williie in August Wilson’s The Piano, how can it possibly be OK to put a white man in what amounts to yellow face to portray an Asian?

David Rhee and Clayton StamperIssues of race, theater and the world beyond theater are front and center in Hwang’s provocative, funny, self-deprecating and razor-sharp Yellow Face. The piece begins as a fairly straightforward telling of Hwang’s protests of Pryce’s casting in Miss Saigon. The Tony-winning author of M. Butterfly generated a flashpoint of media coverage and briefly caused producer Cameron Macintosh to cancel the Miss Saigon’s New York run. But Yellow Face – which centers on the travails of a playwright named DHH – is just getting started with the Miss Saigon blow-up (or “tempest in an Oriental teapot,” as Macintosh describes it). After laying a foundation that delves the difficult gray areas between color blind casting and racist casting, Yellow Face spins from the trouble with Miss Saigon into an almost Kafka-esque narrative of race and racism in and outside of the insular world of theater. From the casting of Miss Saigon, Hwang moves to U.S. legislature and its role in the fear mongering racist witch hunts that put an innocent Wen Ho Lee in solitary confinement for nine months.

On the surface, Yellow Face sounds like an exercise in politically correct naval gazing. How could it be anything else, given that the playwright has made himself the main character? Yet Yellow Face never once descends into the valley of self-indulgence. Hwang’s dialogue shows perspective that’s global rather than solipsistic. And while it’s a mighty technical feat that Hwang pulls off by shaping something comparatively narrow (a chapter in his own life) into something of global import, Yellow Face isn’t just a technically well-made play; it’s also wholly entertaining. Working with a marvelous ensemble cast, director Steve Scott has shaped a production that is as droll and compelling as it is illuminating.

In the crucial role of DHH, David Rhee is the lynchpin that holds this marvelous piece of theater together. His expressions as DHH discusses Miss Saigon with his father HYH (Josephy Anthony Foronda) are an early hallmark of a strong performance . DHH is at once exasperated and enraged at the prospect of a blockbuster musical about an Asian girl who kills herself after having an affair with an American G.I. DHH doesn’t actually say so in so many words, but his just-ate-lemon demeanor makes words almost unnecessary: Miss Saigon is almost as bad as that imperialistic classic The King and I.

But Saigon is only the beginning of DHH’s troubles. Having become the poster child for racially correct casting, DHH mistakenly hires white actor Marcus G. Dahlman (Clayton Stamper) to play the Chinese lead in his new play, “Face Value.” By the time DHH realizes his mistake, well, he’s in far too deep to extricate himself without a whole lotta embarrassment. And even if he were willing to lose face, it’s not that simple. As his lawyers tell him, while you can hire someone because they’re Asian, you can’t fire them because they’re white. DHH’s attempts to unravel the conundrum of race and theater becomes about as tricky and futile as detangling the strands in a bowl of angel hair pasta soaked on olive oil. There’s simply no way to do it without getting one’s hands terribly slimy and, in the end, looking terribly foolish.

Lily-white Marcus, meanwhile, adopts the name Marcus Ghee, talks up his heritage as a “Eurasion Siberian Jew,” becomes an outspoken advocate for the “Asian community” and – after “Face Value” – goes on tour to great acclaim as the lead in a production of The King and I.

The whole thing would be a daffy exercise in mistaken identities were the stakes not so perilously high. It’s in DHH’s father HYH that those stakes become painfully clear, as the powerful U.S. senate banking committee begins unilaterally investigating U.S. citizens with “Asian” surnames in an attempt to ferret out those who would covertly assist China in becoming a superpower more super than the U.S. of A. What the brutal rigors of communist China could not do to HYH, the U.S. senate succeeds in. He becomes ruined, both physically and mentally.

Forunda (who, incidentally, spent over a year playing the pimp in a national tour of Miss Saigon) is up to his usual superlative standards. In HYH, we get a portrait of the sort of exasperating parent surely all children encounter at some point. His view of the world doesn’t always jive with that of his son or, for that matter, always with reality. Forunda depicts a self-made man of tremendous resilience and resourcefulness – HYH is an immigrant who started with nothing and because the owner of the first U.S. bank to do personal slowly begin to shred him beyond repair. In as performance as memorable as it is empathetic, Forunda captures the sad progression as HYH’s confidence begins to crumble as he discovers that his country, United States, is not the benevolent, fair place he believed.

     
Clayton Stamper - Yellow Face by David Henry Hwang David Rhee and Tanya McBride - Yellow Face - David Henry Hwang

The rest of the ensemble, many of them playing two and three roles, is equally good. As DHH’s ex-girlfriend, Tanya McBride is just the right amount of wary and sympathetic. Christopher Meister makes an unctuous Macintosh, among other roles, and Lydia Berger is hilariously crafty as a casting director trying to ferret out racial info at auditions where she’s prohibited from asking about ethnic backgrounds. And as a New York Times reporter with all the ethics of a viper, Christopher Popio is effectively villainous.

Yellow Face just may be one of the smartest plays about race currently running in our allegedly post-racial world. But that’s not the main reason it’s worth seeing. No, the reason to see Yellow Face is that Scott has created a show that’s wholly absorbing. It will make you think about tricky matters of ethnicity, skin color and stereotyping, but it will also keep you engaged from start to finish. As individual performers and as an ensemble, this cast is fantastic. Silk Road has set the standard for this summer’s informal David Henry Hwang Fest (Chinglish at the Goodman, Family Devotions at Halcyon). If the other productions are this good, it will be a festival to celebrate whether you’re Asian, Caucasian or, Eurasian Siberian Jew.

  
  
Rating: ★★★★
  
  

  
June 21, 2011 | 2 Comments More

Jeff Awards announced for 2008-2009 season

PRODUCTION — PLAY – LARGE
Ruined - Goodman Theatre and Manhattan Theatre Club
The SeafarerSteppenwolf Theatre 

PRODUCTION — PLAY – MIDSIZE
The History Boys - TimeLine Theatre 

PRODUCTION — MUSICAL – LARGE
Caroline, or Change - Court Theatre

PRODUCTION — MUSICAL – MIDSIZE
Tomorrow Morning – Hilary A. Williams, LLC

PRODUCTION — REVUE
Studs Terkel’s Not Working - The Second City e.t.c.

ENSEMBLE
The History BoysTimeLine Theatre 

NEW WORK — PLAY
Lynn NottageRuined - Goodman Theatre and Manhattan Theatre Club

NEW ADAPTATION — PLAY
Seth BockleyJonCollaboraction

NEW WORK OR ADAPTATION – MUSICAL
Josh Schmidt, Jan Tranen & Austin PendletonA Minister’s Wife - Writers’ Theatre 

DIRECTOR – PLAY
Nick BowlingThe History BoysTimeLine Theatre

DIRECTOR – MUSICAL
Charles NewellCaroline, or Change - Court Theatre

DIRECTOR — REVUE
Matt HovdeStuds Terkel’s Not WorkingThe Second City e.t.c.

ACTOR IN A PRINCIPAL ROLE — PLAY
Larry Neumann, Jr. – A Moon for the Misbegotten- First Folio Theatre
William L. PetersenBlackbirdVictory Gardens Theatre 

ACTOR IN A PRINCIPAL ROLE — MUSICAL
Joseph Anthony ForondaMiss Saigon - Drury Lane Oakbrook

ACTRESS IN A PRINCIPAL ROLE – PLAY
Saidah Arrika EkulonaRuined- Goodman Theatre and Manhattan Theatre Club

ACTRESS IN A PRINCIPAL ROLE — MUSICAL
E. Faye ButlerCaroline, or Change - Court Theatre

SOLO PERFORMANCE
Max McLeanMark’s GospelFellowship for the Performing Arts

ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE — PLAY
Alex WeismanThe History Boys - TimeLine Theatre

ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE — MUSICAL
Max Quinlan – The Light in the Piazza- Marriott Theatre

ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE — PLAY
Spencer KaydenDon’t Dress for Dinner - The British Stage Company

ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE – MUSICAL
Liz Baltes – A Minister’s WifeWriters’ Theatre
Summer SmartThe Light in the Piazza Marriott Theatre

ACTOR IN A REVUE
Mark David KaplanForbidden Broadway: Dances with the StarsJohn Freedson, Harriet Yellin and Margaret Cotter

ACTRESS IN A REVUE
Amanda Blake DavisStuds Terkel’s Not Working- The Second City e.t.c.

SCENIC DESIGN – LARGE
Lucy OsborneTwelfth NightChicago Shakespeare Theater

SCENIC DESIGN – MIDSIZE
Brian Sidney BembridgeThe History Boys - TimeLine Theatre

COSTUME DESIGN – LARGE
Mara BlumenfeldThe Arabian NightsLookingglass Theatre

COSTUME DESIGN — MIDSIZE
Rachel LaritzThe Voysey Inheritance - Remy Bumppo Theatre

SOUND DESIGN – MIDSIZE
Lindsay JonesThe K of D: An Urban LegendRoute 66 Theatre

LIGHTING DESIGN — LARGE
Christopher AkerlindRock ‘n’ Roll - Goodman Theatre

LIGHTING DESIGN — MIDSIZE
Jesse Klug – Hedwig and the Angry InchAmerican Theater Company

CHOREOGRAPHY
David H. BellThe Boys from Syracuse - Drury Lane Oakbrook

ORIGINAL INCIDENTAL MUSIC
Dominic KanzaRuinedGoodman Theatre and Manhattan Theatre Club

MUSIC DIRECTION
Doug PeckCaroline, or Change - Court Theatre

OUTSTANDING ACHIEVEMENT IN SPECIAL EFFECTS
Steve Tolin – Special Effects – The Lieutenant of Inishmore - Northlight Theatre

OUTSTANDING ACHIEVEMENT IN VIDEO DESIGN
Mike Tutaj – Film & Video Design – Tomorrow Morning – Hillary A. Williams

November 9, 2009 | 0 Comments More

Review: American Theatre Company’s “Yeast Nation”

 A Mucking Good Time

yeast-nation-4

American Theatre Company presents:

Yeast Nation

by Greg Kotis and Mark Hollmann
directed by PJ Paparelli
runs through October 18th (ticket info)

reviewed by Timothy McGuire

Yeast Nation is an innovative musical production unlike anything I have ever seen before. Greg Kotis (a veteran of Chicago’s Neo-Futurists) and Mark Hollmann (a veteran of Chicago Theatre Building’s Musical Theatre Workshop), the same creators of the Tony-winning musical Urinetown, tell a provocative story about the creation of life based on an absurd premise of single celled yeasts living in a primordial soup. There are no  stories of life before these yeasts; these yeasts are the beginning of time.

yeast-nation-3These vocally gifted yeasts are living under the dictatorial rule of the Elder (Joseph Anthony Foronda), he being the yeast that produced all other yeasts. They are starving yet the Elder forbids them to rise to the top where plenty of nourishing food is available. The Elder believes that his oppression is for the good of all yeasts and life as a whole. He even kills a yeast (Sweet yeast’s father) for disobeying him and eating from the top of the liquid surroundings. The Elder’s son Second (Andrew Keltz), the second in command, sees no sense in his fathers orders. He ventures off to discover and take advantage of all the wonderful things available near the top, such as delicious fulfilling muck. He promises Sweet (the name of the sweet yeast) a new world, not knowing what lies ahead. Second’s engulfment of muck results in the birth of a fantastic pink creature (Stephanie Kim), sparking the beginning of the progress to a new multi-celled organism.

Do not be alarmed if none of this makes any sense – the creators were aware of their own craziness in the foundation of their story and the even more incredible plot. In the beginning I was getting a little nervous as I had no idea what was going on, and then the scary-eyed grey-haired yeast (Barbara Robertson) poked fun at how weird it is to believe in a story about yeasts. Throughout the play the creators slide in small little jokes recognizing the lack of believability and completely insane premise of a society of single-celled yeasts. This is theatre, not school. Have some fun with it.

Each scene is filled with graphic sexual innuendos hidden in Kotis and Hollmann’s brilliant writing. Though tempted to share with you some of these tastefully shocking lines, I would not want to ruin the experience of the live delivery. Considering the depth of this unordinary script and lyrics, I am looking forward to discovering the jokes that were intelligently hidden beyond my comprehension the first time seeing the performance.

yeast-nation-2 yeast-nation-3

 

There is no distinct set on stage. The scenery is composed of purple lights hanging from the ceiling and rafters creating Disney-like prehistoric stars. The stage is cluttered with scaffolds and equipment displaying the result of a Broadway-style performance being compressed into the small storefront space of American Theatre Co. This design allows for the yeasts to utilize a variety of heights and abstract placements on the stage, providing the sense of a large production cramming itself into the small set.

The lighting and special effects add the change in atmosphere to each various style of song. The musical variety in this bizarre tale includes a little bit of everything. The style of each song had its own vibe from a tune sang at a church choir, downtown disco, a rock concert, Christian rock, Gospel, rock video and more. I am pretty sure they did a parody of Meatloaf’s music video for “I Would Do Anything for Love.”

Before I even had an idea of what was going on in the plot, I already felt I was watching the beginning of a spectacular new musical. The confusion is part of the fun. The costumes were a little hokey, but the quality of talent on stage combined with the unique incomparable writing by Greg Kotis and Mark Hollmann is a combination for success. Go see the birth of the next hit musical that you cannot believe someone could imagine to produce.

Rating: «««½ 

Playing at American Theatre Company, 1909 W. Byron, Chicago, IL, Thursdays & Fridays at 8 pm, Saturdays, through October 18, 2009.

 

yeast-nation-4

September 30, 2009 | 0 Comments More