YBW - Yellow Brick Wall: Angry White Men Played by Two Happy Asian Girls
nytheatre.com review by Ed Malin
August 10, 2012
Can it be possible? Would no one read a book or go see a movie about Asian American women unless they were made to be "exotic"? Siho Ellsmore and Marisa Marquez are suggesting just this in their hilarious show Yellow Brick Wall: Angry White Men Played By Two Happy Asian Girls. They portray Brooklyn roommates who are finally getting their true-life book "Rice Flowers" published. But as they pack their belongings, they hear mysterious flute music coming out of a chest. This leads them to pictures of their ancestors; their characters are Japanese via Australia and the granddaughter of a Japanese soldier and a Filipino comfort woman.
And then the ladies take their revenge on the strange white men who do all the objectifying of Asian women....by playing characters like Rupert Murdoch, Jim Cramer, Rush Limbaugh, Mel Gibson, book-reading security guards—as well as Oprah Winfrey (mistress of the Book Club). Then there are the Hollywood execs who want to make the movie of the book "Rice Flowers" but who want to avoid the "Memoirs of a Geisha" phenomenon, in which author Arthur Golden and a mainly Chinese cast brought us an "authentic Japanese story," to the dismay of Midwestern audiences. The solution: cast George Clooney, Al Pacino and others so that the story's not too Asian. There is a detour into Woody Allen's marriage to his adopted Asian daughter (although it does closely resemble the mores of medieval Japanese literature). Puppets representing the writers of the "Rice Flowers" screenplay are also shown to display White-on-Asian lechery. The scenes are bookended by amusing, nonsensical proverbs which are recited in Japanese and then in a badly accented Filipino voice. The finale, featuring a sword fight in Hello Kitty panties, shows that Ellsmore and Marquez are out to skewer every stereotype.
There's not a dull moment in this show, nor will there likely be an empty seat. The fast-paced performance seems to get a laugh from every facial expression the talented ladies choose to give us. Director Danny Williams, who has worked with Marquez in the past, helps channel a very direct, believable, masculine energy. I appreciate that in the end the desire to avoid stereotypes is extended even to the male security guards, although for some reason the book they read together before "Rice Flowers" was Twilight. Dax Valdes's choreography plays an important part in the show, as does Calvin O. Anderson's projection design.