September 27, 2007

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Stringing single
Yellow Taxi tackles physics and life crises
By Heidi Masek hmasek@hippopress.com

The professional company Yellow Taxi Productions is staging String Fever at the Hunt Memorial Building in Nashua, the fourth show in its five-show 2007 season.

Jacqueline Reingold’s play mixes comedy and physics. Lily is turning 40, is single and wants to have a baby. She learns about string theory when she meets a man who happens to be a physicist. “She starts to apply those ideas to her personal crisis,” Reingold said. As the man starts to disappoint her, so does the theory, Reingold said. Lily’s life is intertwined with a cranky father, an Icelandic comedian and a best friend who followed a man to Iowa.

Acting Loft’s education director, Leah Belanger of Manchester, has stage managed, assistant directed and acted with Yellow Taxi. For String Fever, she gets to take the reins as director.

Dawn Tucker returns as Lily’s best friend. Tucker was great comic relief in The Countess produced by YTP last fall, and was nominated for best supporting actress for the role at NH Theatre Awards.

Most of the actors are new to Yellow Taxi but not to the area. When Belanger first read the play, she thought covering the wacky roles would be a challenge — “but honestly, as soon as I saw each of the actor’s auditions I knew exactly how they fit into the play,” Belanger said.

The characters are “out there” but also realistic.

“That’s almost more difficult than characters who are farcical,” Belanger said. They do “the crappy stuff no one wants to admit they do,” she said. One breaks up with a girlfriend because he says he’d rather be home with his cat, Belanger said.

“I would say that some of characters are loosely inspired by people I know,” Reingold said.

Larry Pizza of Nashua and Peter Saati of Lowell, Mass., play Lily’s love interests while Arthur Barlas of Chelmsford, Mass., plays her father and Seth Thompson of Manchester, a former classmate of Belanger’s at Keene State, plays the Icelandic friend.

“Susan Berkowitz does such an amazing job I practically don’t need to be there,” Belanger said of the Boston-based actress who plays Lily. That’s good. Belanger is 27. “I definitely was intimidated by the fact that I wasn’t 40,” Belanger said. “I wanted to accurately represent this woman and her story on the stage.” But after rereading the script several times, she realized, “It’s not so much important that I identify with her situation but that I identify with the fact that she’s in a crisis.... You don’t have to be 40-year-old woman trying to have a baby to act in, direct, or enjoy the play,” she said.

Reingold said she wrote the play starting with the question, “What if I wrote a play that reflected the structure of physics?” It was for the Sloan Foundation, which commissions playwrights to write about science and technology. “String theory is a theory of modern physics that posits that the tiniest bit of matter is not a particle but a tiny string,” Reingold said.

Belanger said she’s had to read up on it and the project has “reawakened” her sense of the relationship between art and science.

YTP can fit between 45 and 55 people at the Hunt Memorial Building, but will use risers for the seating and a platform for the stage, after complaints about sight lines. Both seating and actors were all at floor level in previous YTP shows at the Hunt.

In the meantime, the founder and artistic director of YTP, Suzanne Delle, and the board of directors are hard at work searching for permanent home for the five-year-old company.


Theory of everything
String Fever, by Jacqueline Reingold, is presented by Yellow Taxi Productions, Oct. 12-20, at the Hunt Memorial Building, 6 Main St., Nashua, yellowtaxiproductions.org, 661-3879. Ticket prices range from $15 to $20..