The new Scottish play: “Yellow Moon” nails its naïve protagonists to the ground and makes us like it.
BY ELLEN WERNECKE
As it turned out, the in-the-round seating of "Yellow Moon" (now playing at 59E59 as part of the Brits Off Broadway festival) provided the perfect vantage point from which to observe the transformation of the audience during the show. The gestures of the actors competed with the shell-shocked visages of the theatregoers who had not expected to be sealed in a black box with no set to speak of and nothing to look at besides the raw human passions on display. Perhaps the show should come with a warning label, given the stricken faces I saw. Director Guy Hollands works the set and his actors to perfection in this taut drama.
Subtitled "The Ballad of Leila and Lee," the play closes in on two teenagers, a shy Muslim girl (Nalini Chetty) and a ribald would-be Casanova (Andrew Scott-Ramsay) who meet at a supermarket, go to a graveyard and run away together. She feels trapped in her role as a good daughter and good student; he fears the long arm of the law after striking at his mother's boxer boyfriend in self-defense. Together they flee north, planning to look for Lee's long departed father.
The parallel between Leila's obsessive love of tabloid magazines and the larger-than-life adventure on which she finds herself is constructed early on and not entirely to the play's detriment; indeed, there is something mythic and foregone about the way Leila and Lee circle around each other, culminating in a sweet dance they share while trespassing in the Scottish highlands. David Greig's script sags a little in the second half of the show and punches the ending a little bit too hard, but I was never able to take my eyes off the teens in their ignominious quest.
Keith MacPherson and Beth Marshall play all the other characters in the show, and they are excellent, but they don’t have the magnetism the script gives Chetty and Scott-Ramsay to work with. Chetty in particular is probably the closest thing to an actual teenager I’ve seen on stage this year, all stammers and fluttering hands and awkward pauses. It’s a performance that ought to justify the inclusion of this excellent Scottish play in the festival.
YELLOW MOON runs through May 18 at the Brits Off Broadway Festival at 59E59. For more information, visit 59E59.org.
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.