Los Angeles Theater Review: THE YELLOW BOAT (Coeurage Theatre Company in Burbank)

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by Jason Rohrer on April 21, 2014

in Theater-Los Angeles


Joseph Patrick O'Malley, Cody Klop, Katelyn Gault.It’s a play that deals with AIDS, and the central character is a little boy.  Okay?  So while Coeurage Theatre Company (like many who have produced David Saar’s The Yellow Boat since it was first published in 1997) says that it’s appropriate for ages 8 and up, you’ll have to make your own decision about bringing your kid.  Frozen it ain’t, but regarding plot I will say no more.  I already have said too much.  I will say that any adult who likes a simple and affecting story, told with the power of theatrical imagination, ought to see this one.  It may turn out to be this season’s Walking the Tightrope.  Considering what that show did for the stock of the 24th Street Theatre, I realize that’s a bold claim.  See it, and call me a liar.  I can take it.

Joey Nicole Thomas, Malika WilliamsPersonally, I wouldn’t have missed it for any considerations of fear, appropriateness, or “what else will I miss if I make time to see this?” bullshit.  This is a very good use of entertainment resources (time, money, patience).  It is literature delicate and brutal, realized with tact and taste and a bursting stageful of great acting.  These stage pictures are consistently ingenious and moving – a child’s drawings come alive: lines dance; boats float; people fly.  An expedition of medical discovery is made into the human body.  And this isn’t some giant production in an institution with an 80 foot grid and 200 lighting instruments; it’s a relatively inexpensive effort in a poky theater in an obscure suburban park.  Enough love radiates from this little stage, though, to fill the biggest, coldest house in town.

TJ MarchbankPeople talk about how courageous and excellent L.A. theater is, and some of them believe it.  But most of those who say so either think it pays to say it, or don’t see as much L.A. theater as I do.  If half of Los Angeles troupes had half of this one’s chops and guts, we would indeed have not merely the most populous theater community in America, but its artistic leader.  This company’s choice of material is consistently pander-free, a claim extraordinarily few can make.  Too, it has some of the best actors anywhere – to name just two from this show, Kurt Quinn and Joey Nicole Thomas deliver performances so true as to seem permanent.  “Indispensible” is a word that often comes to mind when I think of this pay-what-you-want company.  (That’s right; ticket prices are at your discretion.  How’s that for daring?  Let’s see Center Theatre Group try that.)

Cody Klop, Joey Nicole ThomasCoeurage is their name, and courage is in their hearts.  Proof: artistic director Jeremy Lelliott is busy in another company’s show right now, City Garage’s grand failure Bulgakov/Moliere, experiencing what it’s like to work under a writer who lacks restraint and a director who lacks taste, discretion, and proportion.  By contrast, Yellow Boat director Joseph V. Calarco has wrought this shipshape show from the same deep toolchest out of which he fashioned the wonderful Coeurage production of Sean Graney’s The 4th Graders Present an Unnamed Love-SuicideYellow Boat has similarly bracing rewards for brave audiences.  It deals with uncomfortable subject matter, treating kids as object lessons for adults and mature children alike.  It talks up to its audience.  And it illustrates why theater exists in the first place.

(L to R, rear) Kurt Quinn, TJ Marchbank, Ivy Khan, Malika Williams, Joey Nicole Thomas, and (sitting) Cody Klop.photos by John Klopping

The Yellow Boat
Coeurage Theatre Company
GTC Burbank
1100 W. Clark Avenue in Burbank
scheduled to end on May 25, 2014
for tickets, call (323) 944-2165
or visit www.coeurage.secure.force.com/ticket
for more info, visit www.coeurage.org

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