The Column Online



by Del Shores

Uptown Players

Direction by Del Shores
Executive Produced by Craig Lynch and Jeff Rane
Musical Arrangements by Joe Patrick Ward
Oklahoma Choreography by John de los Santos
Stage Management by Cathy O'Neal
Assistant Stage Management by Robert Molina
Set Design by Kevin Brown and Alan McAngus
Costume Design by Suzi Cranford
Lighting Design by Jason Foster
Sound Design by Virgil Justice
Pre-Show Dialogue and Music by Levi Kreis

CAST (In order of appearance)

Kate Westmoreland - Kristin McCullough
Bobby Westmoreland - Jeff Plunk
Dayne Westmoreland - Justin Duncan
Gracie Westmoreland - Zoe Kerr
Kendall Parker - Grant Bower
Sister Timothea Parker - Deborah Jones

Hunter Barnett, Bill Flynn, Linda Leonard, Kevin Moore and Bo Myers

Reviewed Performance: 2/22/2013

Reviewed by Richard Blake, Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN

Uptown Players' presentation of Yellow features stunning writing, a stellar cast and a production quality that is beyond reproach, which combined, makes this a simply spectacular production to behold!!

Yellow, the latest play by award-winning playwright Del Shores, chronicles a year in the life of what seems to be the perfect family in Vicksburg, Mississippi. Bobby Westmoreland (Jeff Plunk) is a high school football coach, and his wife Kate (Kristen McCullough) is a respected therapist. They have two ambitious children in high school; their son Dayne (Justin Duncan) is the golden child and football star while their daughter Gracie (Zoe Kerr) is an aspiring actress who feels misunderstood at all times. Gracie's best friend is a young gay boy, Kendall Parker (Grant Bower), who shares her affinity for the theatre which puts him at odds with his abusive, fundamentalist mother, Sister Timothea Parker (Deborah Jones).

As the play opens, all seems right in the Westmoreland household. Dayne prepares for the start of football season, and Gracie and Kendall audition to join the cast of the high school production of Oklahoma. Everything quickly begins to fall apart when an unexpected tragedy rocks the solid foundation of the Westmoreland family to the breaking point. Yellow dives head first into the themes of cowardice, intolerance and the damage caused to families by secrets, rejection and the difficulty of forgiveness. A departure from the intense comedy of earlier works, Yellow is Mr. Shores' most dramatic play to date.

Let me preface my writing below by saying something I have never done in a review - you MUST take the opportunity to see this production! It's an evening and a moment in time that will stay with you and you will cherish. It's like seeing one of the first productions of The Grapes of Wrath or A Streetcar Named Desire and walking away knowing you have been touched in a way that only a few dramatic pieces can claim... and it is a moment you will never forget!!

Writer/Director Del Shores definitely shows why he's an award-winning artist with this production. His story is well-defined, the characters are fully fleshed out, identifiable, and the arc in story flow is sublime. Mr. Shores takes you on a highly charged, 360 degree emotional rollercoaster with this play. Every scene and every line delivery holds you in the palm of the play's hand and never lets you go. His direction in the play is only second in line to the writing. His wonderful scenic blocking and on-track staging never fails throughout the show. Highly emotional scenes have beautiful movement on the stage, balanced by intimate and precise "pictures" that keep you involved with what's happening in the scene. There are some long moments with no on stage, yet you are fully involved and mesmerized with the action occurring. One scene had multiple cast members staged all over the set, never interacting with one another, yet propelling the story forward with amazing perfection. Bravo on a simply spectacular job on both fronts Mr. Shores. Bravo!!

The production side of Yellow is pure perfection. Every aspect, from set and props to lighting, sound and costuming, is stellar and flawless. I'm sure there will be many award nominations and wins for this show in the future and all will be very much deserved!

The scenic design team of Kevin Brown and Alan McAngus does a remarkable job transforming the unique stage at the Kalita Humphreys Theater into a masterpiece of design and functionality. The fixed set literally looks like a large Mississippi home (practically to scale), that has been sliced in half, allowing you to "peer" into the lives of this family. The design elements and attention to detail are like none I have seen in years. A two-story set filled to the brim with realism and detail ebbs into every nook and cranny of the stage. Multiple outdoor locations are precisely done and put in areas that are visible to all and extremely functional. An example of their detail is an actual full size kitchen built on the stage, with real appliances, including a well-stocked modern stainless steel refrigerator, cabinets, countertops and recessed lighting. You truly believe this is the family's home and you are the unseen guest among them.

Jason Foster's lighting design is nothing less than a visual spectrum of excellence! Rich hues and deep colors flood the space throughout the performance and add a depth and texture that is unbelievable.

Multiple patterns and practical lighting accent the scenes with perfection and enhance every moment of the play. Great attention to detail is paid to even the slightest of script references. When the family gets home in the car, you actually see its "headlights" move across the stage as if they've pulled in. In another scene, the car pulls away and we see the actors bathed in red "taillights" pulling away. That is design excellence in lighting and Mr. Foster hits the mark in every aspect of design in this production!

Sound design by Virgil Justice follows suit with the perfection in this production. Perfectly-timed cues for ambient sounds, like car horns and doors, are well placed and always enhance the action on stage. The scene changes are expertly done with characters "backstory" monologues delivered in darkness. They continue to explain what is occurring while the sets are changed, and are a brilliant element to the production.

Suzi Cranford's costume design is right on the mark in style, functionality and purpose. All the actors are well fit and represented perfectly in their costumes. Great detail went into fabrics, comfort (some scenes are very physical) and presentation. Ms. Cranford's highly talented design skills definitely shine in this production.

The talent that appears on the stage at the Kalita is nothing less than spectacular. Best part, almost all are local Dallas/Ft. Worth talents making their debuts with Uptown Players. I was in awe of what they present onstage and every one of them shines in this production!

Kristin McCullough reprises her role as the mother, Kate Westmoreland, in this regional premiere. She originated it in the World Premiere of Yellow in Los Angeles, garnering her multiple awards. There is a reason' she is just stunning in the character! Every moment she is on stage you are captivated by her style, emoting, timing and presence.

She brings believability to the character that draws you in and makes you feel her every emotion. From some of the wonderful comedic moments in the play to the desperate emotional peaks, Ms. McCullough is a STAR in this play and you will not be disappointed in her portrayal.

The father, Bobby Westmoreland, played by Jeff Plunk will leave you speechless with his performance. Some might have chosen to take the character of a high school football coach too far, towards an all "testosterone-male stereotype" that would have destroyed the inherent premise of the role. His lovely emotional outbursts are properly delivered and never over-the-top His raw talent allows you into this simple man's heart and tumbles you around in it. Mr. Plunk delvers a performance that is perfect, unflawed and poignant.

Justin Duncan's portrayal of the perfect son, Dayne, is a sight to behold in this role. I can't reveal too much about the character without divulging some major plot lines, but this young man is just marvelous in this production. There are some very difficult scenes for an actor to portray with this character, and Mr. Duncan delivers them like a seasoned Broadway star. You'll laugh and cry at some of his moments and in the end, what he delivers on stage will stay with you for a very long time. Congratulations on a spectacular job Mr. Duncan!!

The "misunderstood" daughter, Gracie, played by Zoe Kerr, takes you into a dimension of performance perfection that is a rarity in such a young artist. This role is demanding, comedic, emotionally draining and requires some of the most difficult timing of line delivery in the show. Ms. Kerr has some of the best one-liners and most heart-wrenching scenes in the play, and delivers each and every one with style, professionalism and perfection. This role seems like it was made for her and she simply shines in it.

Grant Bower in the role of Gracie's BFF, Kendall, shines like a star on the stage. His quirky take on the gay "theatre-geek" is always entertaining and never over-the-top, unless required. Mr. Bower is another in this cast that goes from highly comedic to heart-wrenching sadness with no difficulty or error. Again, I can't reveal too much, but there is a scene in the show that requires a kiss - the scene is so touching and well-acted, as I type now, I'm actually wiping a tear from my eye. This is another stellar performance by Dallas' very own rising stars - bravo!!

The remarkable portrayal of Kendall's mother, Sister Timothea, by Deborah Jones is nothing less than stunning! Ms. Jones has, in my opinion, the most difficult, in-depth performance in the show. She is given a role that is meant to be disliked, even hated by the audience, yet manages to allow just enough humanity to peek through to keep you following her. She could have easily gone too far and lost us due to pure hatred of her role, but that never happens and you keep fully involved in the character from beginning to end.

Yes, I've brandished an immense amount of praise on this show, its creators, designers and performers - all with good reason - they ALL deserve it!! There was not a dry eye in the theatre at points in the show and the building shook from the deafening, thunderous applause during the standing ovation they received at the conclusion. As I mentioned earlier, this is THE SHOW TO SEE, even if you can only get to see a few this season. Trust me, it will touch you in ways very, very few live theatre productions ever will.

Uptown Players
Kalita Humphreys Theater, 3636 Turtle Creek, Dallas, TX 75219
Runs through March 10th, 2013

Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 8:00pm and 2:00pm on Sunday
Tickets are $25.00 - $35.00.

For more info and to purchase tickets, please visit: or call the box office at 214-219-2718.