|See Almost, Maine through February 23–credit|
You dust the snow from your winter coat and wipe off your fur-lined boots; only to step inside the Gym at Judson and see more snow on the set of Almost, Maine. The wintry landscape readies the stage for John Cariani’s romantic comedy which occurs in the “almost” town of Almost, Maine. This is a town so remote that the nearest emergency room is 38 miles away, and the only popular hangout is the Moose Paddy Bar. Almost is a slightly surreal place where love is a tangible thing that can be kept in sacks, where people fall in and out of love, and where hearts break and shatter into pieces.
The play is a series of vignettes that would make great scene study exercises for college theatre courses, but in this two-hour comedy, each mini-play is handled by veteran stage actors, including Cariani himself. Four performers portray numerous couples in varying stages of relationships. Among these are a recently widowed woman who meets a lonely stranger, a man pining after his ex at her bachelorette party; a pair of best friends who discover latent romantic feelings, and a couple on the verge of separation.
|John Cariani proves to be both a skilled playwright and actor.–via Playbill.com|
Donna Lynne Champlin is a standout, possessing the likeability and comedic timing of Melissa McCarthy. Cariani is endearing with his nervous ticks and earnest boy-next-door qualities. Kevin Isola and Kelly McAndrew are also convincing, running the gamut of emotions from whimsical to utterly vulnerable.
|Donna Lynne Champlin in a scene from Almost, Maine.|
Jack Cummings III gives fluid direction to the piece, making use of multiple entrances upstage and behind the audience. The constant motion of actors coming and going without dead space makes the fictional town seem very much alive. The original music by Tom Kochan adds a melancholy air with a touch of hope.
The costumes by Kathryn Rohe are all coats and knit hats, but the differing colors and textures bring out the unique inner lives of the characters. Hope, a romantic girl who has seen the world, is clad in a trendy red pea coat. (This is a stark contrast to the typical bland puffy coats and plaid shirts in other scenes.) Meanwhile, local snowboarders are bundled in an amusing number of pants –– just layers and layers of pants that peel away like the skin of an onion.
Perhaps the most insightful musing on love is a scene called, “This Hurts.” Steve, a man born with a condition where his body cannot feel pain, is certain he will consequently never be able to feel love. When he is kissed for the first time, suddenly all of his senses are in working order, and he celebrates the ability to feel anything at all.
In this play, love is pain, love is laughter, love is hope, love is a pointillistic painting in which you can suddenly see something that you didn’t see before. Whatever your take on love, come in from the cold and see Almost, Maine. This play will warm your heart.
|Almost, Maine is produced by the Transport Group Theatre Company and plays through February 23.|
The Gym at Judson
243 Thompson St.