Jonald Jude Reyes is a Writer, Performer & Director in Chicago, IL. His works have been performed in various theaters city-wide, including Stage 773, The Annoyance, and The Second City. In 2016, he was named Best of Stage Director by the Chicago Reader and was selected to the DirectorsLabChicago program. Learn more at http://www.jonaldjude.com.
Pictured: Kai Ealy and Aurora Adachi-Winter. Photo by Juli Del Prete.
By Jonald Reyes
Waves gently come ashore, the seagulls chirp, and white privilege is heartwarming for the Donnellys as they come together at TWO MILE HOLLOW. In First Floor Theater’s current production, playwright Leah Nanako Winkler fiercely explores the Caucasian stereotype. This satirical narrative digs deep into a soap opera style, in which the Donnelly family reunites to distribute belongings after recently selling their estate. With performers of color portraying the affluent family, this play is a rebuke to yellowface — still an issue in American theater.
Entering the space at the Den Theatre, audiences are met with sand on the ground and a three-level beach house. The scenic design by Arnel Sancianco is thoroughly detailed, from the board games in the kitchen to the silverware of the dining room. The show opens on the porch, as Mary Donnelly (Deanna L. Myers) sets the tone. She delivers overly dramatic self-thoughts on her difficult life until her step-brother Joshua Donnelly (Jose Nateras) enters. Their exchange provides insight to the death of their father, Derrick Donnelly, a famous actor. Their other step-brother Christopher Donnelly (Kai Ealy) enters with his personal assistant, Charlotte, who’s a person of color. Once the Donnellys are all together, their mother, Blythe (Jazmín Corona), warmly greets Christopher’s return.
Each actor has impeccable comedic timing. One running gag has them playing up different ways to pronounce common words in trying to sound smart. Small details drawn up by Winkler and Director Hutch Pimentel, really thicken the irony of how rich White people think, such as confusion over what an air mattress is, and explaining that life is “one long weekend.”
Charlotte (Aurora Adachi-Winter), the sole minority character, has aspirations of furthering her film career with a web series. She believes her relationship with Christopher will add fuel to her project while Joshua falls madly in love with her. On the other end, Mary reveals to Christopher that she loves him, and because they’re just “step” brother and sister it shouldn’t be a problem but Christopher’s response of “Barf! Bar City!” says otherwise.
The play has moments where irony is laid thick, and in a time when performers of color have spoken loudly about yellowface and blackface and lack of representation, theaters, as progressive as they purport to be, need to heed the lesson. Winkler writes this play as a powerful message and although the comedy delivers it with a spoonful of sugar, it is direct and biting.
TWO MILE HOLLOW runs through November 4th. For more information visit firstfloortheater.com.