“My mother and her mother before her believed if only they could be light, light and rich, if they could marry a light-skinned man, they’d be loved,” say ALMA
In Dael Orlandersmith’s Pulitzer-nominated play set in 1960’s America colourism is centre stage. Aaron Anthony and Nadine Higgins play Eugene and Alma a couple in America’s deep south: a friendship from childhood that blossoms into romance should be beautiful and dreamy but instead it is plagued with the imbedded self-hate of being dark-skin, being with a dark-skinned person, against why being with a light-skinned person would be better and hate towards light-skinned people for being lighter-skinned, light-skinned people not wanting to get with anyone dark-skinned and this all happens within their own community, across generations.
When Eugene’s light-skinned mother got with his dark-skinned father her own father dis-owned her. #Slavery played a huge part in how Black people saw and see themselves in America, with a division in treatment and status between Black dark skinned, light-skinned and people of mixed nationality. Which stills plays out today maybe in a lesser degree but it is still happening.
The play is Alma’s love story who is dark-skinned and her light-skinned childhood sweetheart Eugene set in rural South Carolina. Eugene talks about his father being a “handsome dark-skinned” man. And at a young age he knew he hated his father, whose breath was rich with bourbon and in his drunken moments would threaten to knock out Eugene as a young boy. Eugene’s father also continuously expressed his dislike for his own dark skin, questioning whether being high-yellow would make him more handsome.
Both Alma and Eugene’s families have their views on skin colour. “My mother and her mother before her believed if only they could be light, light and rich, if they could marry a light-skinned man, they’d be loved,” says Alma. Alma herself expresses her view on the light-skinned girls that she hates with their long hair which they shake for no reason. Even though Eugene is different he likes dark-skinned girls and he chooses her, Alma.
Director Diane Page’s Yellowman is a play that sees two great actors armed with a great script give performances that are bold and imaginative, the play requires them to play numerous parts and personas without much props and a stage which is a little too small for these actor’s might and the might of Dael Orlandersmith’s words.
The set is a simple square stage of which a mood change is dictated by lights, but the play has agency and a sense of urgency because this play deals with a conversation we are having now. The simplicity of the production makes it all the more raw.
If you are planning a trip to the theatre then Yellowman should be on your list of Autumn productions. Aaron Anthony and Nadine Higgin never filter in their delivery and have an easy on stage chemistry.