Julia Jordan’s Dark Yellow is a natural, fluid drama sandwiched between the elements of something noir and something sinister. Thankfully, the two ends are thin-crust, and the middle is stuffed full of extra meat, so the play balances itself out like a hearty double-decker, and winds up being a savory morsel of theater. The opening is so crisp that it dilutes some of the surprise flavor for the bulk of the show, and the ending is too ambiguous to be satisfying, but that center . . . oh, that center!
Jordan begins by teasing the taste buds, as a man and woman fidget their way through the opening act of a one-night stand: small talk. This is difficult, since the two have chosen to remain nameless and impersonal, and awkward, since they’re already in her house. To prepare themselves for meaningless sex, they play a meaningless game (“Tell me something I don’t know”), although nothing is ever meaningless, is it? A gun, a dead son, and the truth come into play—all of which are dangerous things—and that’s not even counting the revenge motif looming over everything. (Given the extremely small stage, it would be hard for anything not to loom.)
The deceptive banter, under the excellent direction of Nick Sandow, is compelling, and the two talented actors (Elias Koteas and Tina Benko) manage to make the awkward situation charming. Slowly, the power shifts, and while the superb Benko (“Jen”) continues to ground the show, Koteas (“Bob”) grows unhinged, more and more feverish in his verbal perambulations.
Ironically, for all Bob’s creepiness, the show never achieves the chilling immediacy of the pitch-black opening monologue (which I dislike, as it gives far too much information away). Jordan seems to be operating in two different theatrical styles, and while they never really collide, they don’t compliment the other either. The suspense is uncorked at the first startling gunshot, and for the next eighty-five minutes, Jordan has to skate on thin ice (which, as far as dramatic tension goes, ends up being for the best). Marvel at her craft that she keeps us all so interested in her characters and their needs, despite the somewhat obvious secret.
Dark Yellow succeeds by clinging to character rather than potboiler thrills, allowing their nuances to shock us, rather than their overt statements. It’s the little things, as they say, and Jordan has a lot of little things.
~ [Aaron Riccio] ~
Studio Dante (257 W 29th Street)
Tickets (212-868-4444): $35.00
Performances: Wed. – Sat. @ 8:00
According to Lincoln Center's new LCT3 project at its slogan, it takes "New Audiences for New Artists." It also takes new critics, hence the establishment of Theater Talk's New Theater Corps in 2005, a way for up-and-coming theater writers and eager new theatergoers to get exposure to the ever-growing theater scene in New York City. Writers for the New Theater Corps are given the opportunity to immerse themselves in the off-off and off-Broadway theater scene, learning and giving back high-quality reviews at the same time. Driven by a passion and love of the arts, the New Theater Corps aims to identify, support, and grow the arts community, one show and one person at a time.