On November 1st, the Robey Theatre Company in collaboration with East West Players presented the theater production revival of Philip Kan Gotanda’s Yohan which starred Danny Glover and June Angela. It was directed by Ben Guillory. The two theater companies had worked together before in 1999 to launch the world premiere at the David Henry Hwang Theater which featured Danny Glover and Nobu McCarthy.
Snehal Desai, Producing Artistic Director of East West Players said, “It is an honor to partner again with The Robey Theatre Company on Phillip’s poignant play.”
The story focused on an interracial couple James and Sumi Washington who had met and fell in love while James was doing a military tour in China. Sumi left her home and followed James back to the United States to live. After 37 years of marriage, the couple’s relationship has broken into shards of despair. Sumi has kicked James out of the house because of his drinking problems, his inability to do anything with his life besides watch television, and the downfall of their intimacy and romantic interaction. She is desperately seeking a way to find the right mixture that will throw together a more loving and dynamic relationship.
Now James has to start from the beginning and court his wife. Each one has been pursuing their individual passions that define themselves in the stratosphere of existence. James is teaching boxing to the adolescent boys in the neighborhood and Sumi is studying pottery. It is apparent from the moment James walks back through the doors to his home in pursuit of a new life with his wife, the old habitual patterns of interaction take hold and neither know how to rise up to change their responses. However, neither one stops trying to repair the relationship. Although they fight and hurt each other again and again, James and Sumi bravely attempt to mold a new life for love.
The term “yohen” refers to the unpredictable changes that take place in the kiln that can determine whether the ceramic is one of beauty or ugliness. In this story the term “yohen” symbolically embraced the couple’s psychological process of creating a work of art through the continuous fire of interaction. A lot of their exchange is ugly and hurtful but out of their fire burning intermingling, there are moments of beauty and transformation.
The two award winning veteran actors, Danny Glover and June Angela show their profound comprehension of the character’s personalities through humor, dramatic timing, and caressing interplay of forcible composures. Although petite and fragile in body, June Angela projected remarkable strength while maintaining transparent vulnerability.
Danny Glover loomed large and booming while he pranced around his costar, and yet, he could soften and fold back into himself to be less intimidating. At times though, it was hard to comprehend why these two people ever fell in love because there wasn’t a real spark of passionate chemistry between the two actors. It seemed like their relationship had always been distant and unfulfilling.
All performances of Yohen will be staged at the David Henry Hwang Theater at the Union Center of the Arts at 120 Judge John Aiso Street, Los Angeles, CA 90012. There are 8pmshows from Thursday to Saturday, and a 2pm matinee show on Sunday. Regular performances are from Thursday, November 2 through Sunday, November 19, with 8pm shows from Thursday to Saturday, and 2pm matinee shows on Saturday and Sunday. The production runs until November 19.
Tickets may be purchased online at www.eastwestplayers.org or by calling (213) 625-7000, making sure to mention any wheelchair/accessible seating needs. Student, senior, and group discounts are available. General Admission ticket prices range from $40 to $60.