Here again a show at On the Boards has me Sloggin on the weekend. And on the Lord's day to boot! Luckily I keep nothing holy, excepting, of course, the job of performance reviewing. Speaking of which: I'd be remiss if I didn't tell you how great and funny and sad and weird Yellow Towel is.
The one-person show emerges from a poem Canadian dancer and former marketing executive Michel wrote as an exercise during a dance class. The poem's about her hair, and, according to press materials, it recalls a time when, as a child, Michel would "drape a yellow towel on her head to emulate the blond girls at school."
In the show, Michel embodies a character who wants to accomplish pretty mundane, domestic tasks: eat, drink, cook, clean, play jams and dance like nobody's watching. But none of that's easy. When she speaks she cycles through several accents—a stereotypical southern US black woman, a stereotypical west African person, and one accent that sounds completely made-up. Her lines are variously didactic and self-descriptive; plainspoken stuff cut with theory stuff. These choices suggest the struggle of a black woman trying to assert an individual self in a cultural swamp of black stereotypes. Michel's movement reflects the intensity of this psychological struggle—everything she does is strained and erratic-seeming, her limbs look like they're being electrified at different times. Just sitting down seems impossible.
To maintain tension, the performance draws on a lot of comedic gestures—chiefly improv, clowning, durational jokes—and also cringe-inducing and sad tableaus full of racist imagery. A particularly moving example of the latter: at one point she peels a banana and shoves chunks of it in her mouth as she tries to sing an ethereal hymn. A particularly wonderful example of the former: she scoops a handful of marshmallow fluff from a jar like a gun from a holster and just starts walking around with hand full of fluff.
You never know what is going to happen next in this performance, and that's enough reason to keep watching. The show starts in five hours. Get your tickets.