by Michael Meigs
Gary Jaffe's Love in Pine is a coming-of-age story, a coming-out story and a fable with a tree spirit and ghosts, all this with multiple realities and time periods anchored in the fictitious town of Pine, Texas at a time of conflagrations. This is unmistakably Bastrop, at about the time that Jaffe left Yale Drama School to return to his hometown of Austin. One wonders uneasily how much of this is auto-therapy, considering that a central character is seen job hunting on the east coast and then returning via some magical transport to the Texas that she holds in disdain.
Just now as I put the header on this piece, my fingers of their own volition typed Love in Pain instead of Love in Pine. That was a Freudian slip, not a an effort to be snide. There is a lot of pain in all of these characters and they work over the past obsessively as those big flames draw nearer.
Jaffe denies names to them. His characters have generic appellations both on the program card and as they speak of one another: Sister, Girl, Teacher, Boy and Tree. I found that precious and a bit off-putting, particularly given the closeness of their relations -- two sisters, a couple destined never to make it to the big prom, a trusted high school teacher (all right, I'll waive my objection in the case of the tree spirit).
The central obsessive incident is clearly depicted on the poster: on their way to their high school prom, with arrangements in place for post-dance coitus, the couple crashes against a huge pine tree -- ironically, the same one in which they carved their joined initials when they were thirteen years old. Just as Sister and Teacher had done when they were the same age, some years before that.
[image: Last Act Theatre Company]