This past weekend I had a chance to catch String, a romantic comedy at Yellow Tree Theatre. I've been familiar with Yellow Tree for a little while but hadn't had a chance to experience them until now. String tells the story of an unlikely romance between a budding poet (Raina) and the guy who delivers her pizza (Ryan). Or rather the romance Ryan would like to see happen, as his determined "wooing," as he puts it, does not impress Raina. Raina is looking for a love "worthy of ten thousand admirers" and the poets she has steeped herself in, and this scruffy guy who dreams of starting his own fertilizer business doesn't fit with those plans. Ryan also faces some competition from English professor Derek, though he finds unlikely allies in Raina's slightly neurotic sister Joy and her Band-Aid-loving husband Cliff.
String is an excellent example of how a simple concept (is the right choice in love always the obvious one?) becomes beautiful when done well. The script by Jessica Lind (who plays Raina and is co-founder of Yellow Tree) sparkles from the start and the actors had the timing down perfectly. The character of Ryan (excellently played by Jason Peterson, also co-founder of Yellow Tree) charms us immediately and we can't help but root for him. Ryan is the sort of person who says what he thinks (no filter here) and is blissfully unaware of the awkward moments he frequently creates. Even his passion for fertilizer is endearing, because it is a passion, in stark contrast to the mellow Derek (Topher Jordan) who promises a life of safety but we the audience can see how his relationship with Raina lacks anything else. Joy (Jessie Rae Rayle) and Cliff (Stuart Gates) provide a nice counterpoint to Raina's search for love, as Joy and Cliff now find themselves in that place of trying to figure out how to navigate all of the mundane moments that marriage brings. Both Rayle and Gates also deliver solid performances as their characters work through the challenge of, having found love, learning how to actually live with each other. Cliff's slightly geeky passion for his work with Band-Aids and his obvious love for his wife show us that Joy has struck the jackpot, even if she believes her marriage lacks "excitement."
This was a play you didn't want to end, as to be immersed in its world and characters was sheer delight from start to finish. String is by far the best script I've come across in awhile. "Love is ridiculous," Lind says in her playwright notes, and here we get a picture of just how glorious the ridiculous can be. Combined with a strong cast and an excellent set design that helped this play flow (Jeffrey Peterson is clearly another designer who knows how to work wonders with a small space), this is one of the best overall productions I've seen in quite awhile. And if this is indicative of Yellow Tree's quality of work, then clearly they will be worth many repeat visits. String runs for just one more weekend, this Thursday through Sunday, and my advice is not to miss this gem. 5 out of 5 stars.
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