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Review: The Girl in the Yellow Dress (Next Theatre)

By Chicagotheaterbeat @chitheaterbeat

Review: The Girl in the Yellow Dress (Next Theatre)   
The Girl in the Yellow Dress 

Written by Craig Higginson
Directed by Joanie Schultz 
Noyes Cultural Arts Center, Evanston (map)
thru Feb 26  |  tickets: $25-$40   |  more info
Check for half-price tickets 
   Read entire review



Clumsy ships passing in the night


Review: The Girl in the Yellow Dress (Next Theatre)


Next Theatre Company presents


The Girl in the Yellow Dress

Review by Lawrence Bommer

Not for lovers of Valentine’s Day, this 90-minute U.S. premiere by South African playwright Craig Higginson depicts a romance gone rancid between troubled souls with biased backgrounds.

“Amor vincit omnia.” Ha. It’s sex, Higginson implies in Joanie Schultz’ persuasive staging, that overcomes linguistic, cultural, social, class and psychological barriers. But for about twenty minutes on a good night. The rest of the time the possessors of the private parts must make a separate peace—then the differences get decisive.

Higginson’s unprepared partners are opposites who should attract, proverbially if not practically. Smart and pretty, Celia (clipped and efficient Carrie Coon) is an English expatriate—and English teacher–in Paris who has secrets not to share.

Review: The Girl in the Yellow Dress (Next Theatre)
She decides to take on Pierre, a very eager French-Congolese student who, it seems, has been spying on, if not stalking, Celia for several weeks until they formally meet. (Interestingly, as in Court Theatre’s Invisible Man, Celia never sees him.)

Not surprisingly, Pierre (Austin Talley, more needy than erotic) is in love with her beauty—but he’s also drawn to her advantages as a privileged rich white person. If he lies about his past, it’ll be easier to remake himself, with her as his standard for success.

Rigid and defensive, Celia seems glacially professional as she indulges in maddeningly technical lessons about verb declensions, inflections and grammar. But, reticent to the point of deviousness, Celia has made herself up too: It’s hard to know how truthful she is when she coyly confesses to shoplifting and thievery and a twin brother who desires her too much. Her mood shifts and emotional twists almost cry out for medication. She’s curious to know the strangest things, proof that he’s still invisible: She’s still indifferent to what he thinks makes him Pierre.

As if sex is the great equalizer, after these disparate souls indulge their instincts, everything changes. No longer the exotic “other,” they just dwindle into damaged humans with unreliable “back stories.” She leaves Paris to rejoin her mysterious brother. He presumably frees himself of his fixation on a porcelain princess with an impeccable accent.

Alas, little of this 2 millionth depiction of dysfunctional love between unready mates amounts to a breathtaking breakthrough, despite Higginson’s sometimes lyrical dialogue–especially given the paucity of sexual chemistry between the performers. With close encounters like these you should almost smell the longing hanging in the air, especially since the sex is never shown (except for some mutual foot rubbing).

Instead, we get ships passing in the night, after a clumsy collision. The fact that racial stereotypes and cultural insensitivity quickens the right emotions into the wrong ones isn’t news. Here it’s not much drama either.


Rating: ★★

The Girl in the Yellow Dress continues through February 26th at Noyes Cultural Arts Center, 927 Noyes Street, Evanston (map), with performances Thursdays at 7:30pm, Fridays-Saturdays at 8pm, and Sundays at 2pm.  Tickets are $25-$40, and are available by phone (847-475-1875 x2) or online at (check for half-price tickets at More information at  (Running time: play length, which includes one intermission)

All photos by Elissa Shortridge 

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