Yellow Face by David Henry Wang manages to say important things about immigration, political correctness, and the US political system without ever getting didactic or soppy. It remains funny, at times hilariously so, and highly entertaining.In 1988, David Henry Hwang (Kevin Shen) is the first Chinese-American playwright to have a play produced on Broadway. His "M Butterfly" also became a film directed by David Cronenberg, starring Jeremy Irons and John Lone. As a result of his Broadway success, he becomes a role model for the Asian-American community in the United States.
When the British impresario Cameron Mackintosh wants to bring the London production of the hit musical “Miss Saigon” to Broadway and brings the award winning white British actor Jonathan Pryce cast in the leading role of an Eurasian pimp to New York, D. H. Hwang is urged by Asian American friends to be the figurehead for their protests: like African-Americans who succeeded in making blacking-up of white actors unacceptable, they believe it is time for Asian-Americans to do the same for yellowing-up. In the turbulences that follow, Hwang will be confronted with a host of issues relating to Chinese-American identity of second generation of immigrants and that of their parents. He will also have to deal with the upside and the downside of his father's unshakeable belief in the wonderfulness of his adopted country.
In Yellow Face, D. H. Hwang tells us the story of what happens next in a deceptively funny, self-deprecating and, at times, surprisingly moving way. The play manages to say important things about immigration, political correctness, and the US political system without ever getting didactic or soppy. It remains funny, at times hilariously so, and entertaining throughout.
Playing in the National Theatre’s new temporary stage, which from the outside resembles a wooden model of Battersea Powerstation, this production makes do with a minimalist set, but director Alex Simms ensures that it moves along at a fast pace, so the audience does not have time to miss a more elaborate set. The cast is terrific and there are particularly strong performances by Kevin Shen in the role of the playwright and David Yip as his father.
National Theatre Temporary Space
London - Southbank