To The Yellow House is an original piece worthy to be seen.

The La Jolla Playhouse World-Premiere by  Kimber Lee, Directed by Neel Keller is currently playing until December 12

A Blog View by Alejandra Enciso-Dardashti

Paco Tolson as “Vincent” photo by Rich Soublet II.
Going back to the Mandell Weiss Theatre after so long was truly special. This venue is perfect for Kimber Lee's world premiere To The Yellow House. A behind-the-scenes-like look at outstanding, sensitive, and vulnerable artist Vincent van Gogh (Paco Tolson). These plays based on real people and things that happened before our time show how mindblowing life can be. In Yellow House's case, the playwright took a meditation approach to a time and place where van Gogh was not even a good painter yet. Always an artist, he never lived to see his fame or sale of a painting. This play taps into that, his complex relationship with brother Theo (Frankie J. Alvarez), and the overwhelming Parisian scene.

Masha Tsimring's dimmed lighting design takes audiences to intimate settings in Vincent's life through Paris and Arles. Moving set pieces designed by Takeshi Kata, mark the rhythm of the story placed on a large dark and shiny linoleum floor. Making a reference to the artist's beginnings painting darker shades. Visually, the piece is truly aesthetic and romantic also accompanied by lovely music by Justin Ellington and beautiful projections by Nicholas Hussong that hint at some of van Gogh's famous works like The Starry Night

The squeaking shoes on the linoleum, however, would totally break the mood. Because the set is moving constantly by ensemble members and the play is 2 hours and 45 minutes, it became too distracting too often.

People who have read Dear Theo or any of the books containing Vincent's letters to his brother will appreciate this piece as some of the dialogue references the letters. Brooke Ishibashi in each of her two roles, one as the rent charging, feather plucking, Marie and the other, bartender turned baker and art advocate, Sophie, gifts all the feels delivering strong, punctual lines as well as endearing, moving moments that land the story and the audience. Difficult to put into words how Deidrie Henry's vigorous performance of Agostina, a woman that posed for practically every artist in Paris, has a self-portrait at the Louvre and is a businesswoman trying to keep her cafe open while also trying to handle moody van Gogh's temper and unreciprocated love for her. Imagine putting all that into one character. Henry is just flawless and absolutely breathtaking in David Israel Reynoso's gorgeous costume designs. The women shine brighter than the men with those stunning gowns with great detail.

Paco Tolson is charming and humorous channeling the trying stages of the proud Dutch artist. The stage interactions with Frankie J. Alvarez as Theo are moving and appalling at the same time. The wonder here as with every artistic expression is that each person will have their own take depending on the van Gogh background they come with. For me, Theo has been pictured throughout history as Vincent's unconditional guardian and confidant. Here, it is that but in a more dense and obligated feeling kind of way. It is thought-provoking and appreciated. 

Marco Barricelli literally practices what he preaches. The impressive UC San Diego acting faculty member brings a unique flair to each of his stage charges: dedicated, knowledgeable, yet distracted Paul Gaugin, manipulative Jean-Léon Gérôme, and my favorite, artist/art studio master, Cormon is expressive and funny. 

Painter sidekicks Alton Alburo as Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec and DeLeon Dallas as Emile Bernard do brief yet solid snippets that bring context to the story. 

The ensemble is formed by Grayson Heyl, Noah Israel, Noah Keeling, Jada Alston Owens, Natalia Quintero-Riestra, Jordan C. Smith. It is lovely to see six UC San Diego MFA students onstage, Quintero-Riestra belts out some mean notes, and Grayson Heyl stands out for a second while doing a meaningful walk through exiting the cafe and looking back. Yes, I saw that, and yes they look great yet, I was left totally wanting/expecting more than them just being part of a backdrop or moving set pieces. 

To The Yellow House is an original piece worthy to be seen. The second act is more solid than the first which could have been resolved in a briefer manner. Performances are currently running until December 12. Tickets can be purchased by calling  (858) 550-1010 or through the website

Shameless plug: listen to our latest podcast episode where we talk to two wonderful cast members of She The People with The Second City HERE

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