Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Red and Yellow Black and White Face

The response to LaBute's lament that white people don't get to play Othello anymore was pretty strong, as evidenced by the Calendar letters in Sunday's LATimes. I linked to LaBute's article in an earlier post (find it here), stating that I wasn't falling for his provocation. Well apparently lots of others did, and I'm glad they spoke up, because this kind of idiotic line of thinking should not go unchallenged. Did I just fall for it? Dammit, I think I did. Anyway, here are the letters. My favorite letter is from a lovely playwright named Henry Ong. I'm quoting below:

I'LL tell you why no one would bat an eye at an all-black version of "Long Day's Journey Into Night." Because no one would think of casting Denzel Washington or Angela Bassett, famous as they are, in that play if it wasn't in an all-black production.

I'll tell you why Brad Pitt as Walter in "Raisin in the Sun" would cause an outcry. It's because a black actor is automatically deprived of one of the few roles that he can look forward to without being dismissed simply because of the color of his skin.

I love Brad Pitt, and would love to see him as Walter, but only if the black actor, or Asian, or Hispanic, is considered and cast in Mr. LaBute's "Fat Pig."

Unless and until we are willing to level the playing field for black, Asian, Hispanic and minority actors, and unless they can vie for and play roles such as Moses or Spider-Man, I suggest we continue to deprive ourselves of blackface, yellow face or brown face white actors.
It's an interesting thing to be discussing in light of the Taper's production of David Henry Hwang's Yellowface, which was reviewed by Charles McNulty in today's LATimes. It's an interesting, smart play, and it examines these issues with charm, humor, irony, and a pleasant combination of self-indulgence and self-effacement that I'd imagine LaBute could never pull off.

I liked the production of Yellowface better than McNulty did; it looks sharp, it has a affable light touch, and keeps things moving well enough. It does slow down in the second act, mostly because of some interesting but digressive meanderings in the script. Regardless, it's a fun show, and far more thoughtful than the sentiments expressed in LaBute's article.

Did I just fall for it again? Dammit!

No comments: