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Anacostia Playhouse Presents ‘Riches,’ ‘Yellowman’

The Anacostia Playhouse in Southeast will be presenting two plays through mid-August, including Lee Blessing’s “Riches,” directed by Paul-Douglas Michnewicz, and Dael Orlandersmith’s “Yellowman,” directed by Thembi Duncan.

Both plays, performing in rotation, focus on relationships that veer of the tracks in unexpected ways.

“Riches” tells the story of David and Carolyn Rich, an affluent couple whose marriage of many years comes apart on a weekend excursion to celebrate their anniversary.

While they live a seemingly perfect life, appearances are not as they seem. Carolyn, a speech therapist, ironically unable to express her feelings, famously quips, “I can’t stay in a relationship just because there’s nothing wrong with it.”

A scene from Lee Blessing's "Riches," which is playing at the Anacostia Playhouse in southeast D.C. through mid-August (Courtesy of Anacostia Playhouse)

A scene from Lee Blessing’s “Riches,” which is playing at the Anacostia Playhouse in southeast D.C. through mid-August (Courtesy of Anacostia Playhouse)

The couple’s conversation turns to harsh words and eventually to a violent, explosive finish.

“Yellowman” (a 2002 Pulitzer Prize finalist) is the story of Alma and Eugene, a Black couple from South Carolina’s low country who have known each other since elementary school and have experienced intra-racial racism from family and friends throughout their relationship.

Dark-skinned Alma has been called “ugly” for her whole life because of her skin color; Eugene, a very light-skinned, or “high yellow,” man has been criticized for his relationship with Alma because of her appearance. Alcoholism, racism, and self-hatred are powerful themes and when tension reaches a boiling point, tragedy is unavoidable.

Michnewicz, founder and a former artistic director for Theater Alliance, has directed at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Lisner Auditorium and Strathmore.

“‘Riches’ gives us David and Carolyn Rich who are celebrating their 31st wedding anniversary in the hotel where they honeymooned,” Michnewicz said.

“Spousal abuse is not preposterous. It occurs more often and with greater severity than ever. More than 10 million men and women suffer from physical abuse from an intimate partner each year in the United States,” he said. “One in 3 women and 1 in 4 men have been victims of some form of domestic physical violence in their lifetime. Some break up. Some stay together. Who’s to say what the moral thing to do is?”

Duncan is a director, producer, playwright, teaching artist, and actor who serves as the creative programs director at Young Playwrights’ Theater.

Her most recent directing project was Tearrance Chisholm’s award-winning play “Br’er Cotton” at Catholic University of America. Thembi has also served as the producing artistic director of African Continuum Theatre Company and the Lead Teaching Artist at Ford’s Theatre.

“I see ‘Yellowman’ as a story of the many ways that the cancer of oppression can live in black American bodies,” said Duncan. “Some people survive, others do not. Colorism is the overarching theme of the play, and though it is set in a specific place and time that may seem distant to our audience, colorism is very much alive today.”

For more information, contact Adele Robey at arobey@fusemail.com or call: 202-290-2328 or 202-841-6457.

For more information, contact Adele Robey at arobey@fusemail.com or call: 202-290-2328 or 202-841-6457.

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