Strip away the framing device of finding an old journal in modern-day San Francisco, and Richmond Triangle Players’ “Yank” begins like so many entertainments about war: in basic training.
As always, the squad is composed of a motley — though all-white — crew of men from all across the good ole’ U.S. of A. There’s Czechowski (Tyler Nobles), the pushy Polish-American; and Cohen (Matthew Riley), a Jewish-American from Boston. There’s even Rotelli (Tyler D. Wilson), an Italian who’s come to America to fight on the side of democracy.
The men predictably overcome their differences to become a team — except for protagonist Stu (Andrew Colletti). While the other men become a cohesive fighting unit, Stu is paralyzed by internal questions of his sexuality. Surrounded nonstop by other men and realizing he has a crush on Mitch (Ed Hughes), a man so studly he’s been nicknamed “Hollywood,” Stu worries that he’ll be found out and left to die in battle.
Just before he’s about to ship to the Pacific, Stu is offered a chance to work for Yank, a soldier-run magazine staffed by like-oriented men. Soon he’s traveling the world, writing about the war and having clandestine hookups with men along the way. All would be fine, except that lovelorn Stu realizes that the man he loves has left him behind.
Written by David Zellnik and with music by his brother Joseph, “Yank” aims to be a classic World War II romance story, except about a homosexual relationship. The script blends humor and drama in a satisfying, if often predictable manner, and the bouncy score is good, creating 1940s-style pop and musical numbers such as “Your Squad Is Your Squad” and “Get It, Got It, Good.”
Far and away the highlight of Triangle’s staging is Georgia Rogers Farmer, who effortlessly tackles a wide range of female roles with her vocal talent and charisma. The lads fare less well, having trouble musically and clomping through some of Rebecca Frost Mayer’s choreography.
Under the direction of James Stover, who played Czechowski in the 2007 off-off-Broadway production of the show, “Yank” is amusing enough, but doesn’t reach its full dramatic potential. Colletti and Hughes have little chemistry as Stu and Mitch, and when the characters’ relationship comes to a head in the second act, the whole affair feels undercooked.
Grenville Burgess’ bare-bones scenic design is underwhelming, consisting mainly of wooden set pieces painted camo. At least on the night I attend, Michael Jarrett’s projection design includes a distracting and incongruous computer tool bar appearing on the backdrop at times.
Like its protagonist, “Yank” is a little rough around the edges, but certainly has its heart in the right place. S
“Yank” runs through June 13 at Richmond Triangle Players. rtriangle.org.