The cast of Venice Theatre Stage II's Almost, Maine.
John Cariani’s play Almost, Maine, was a big hit at the Portland Stage theater company a few years ago, and it’s easy to see why: If you’re a Mainer, this collection of short scenes related to small-town Maine residents in various throes of love must have special appeal. But even Southwest Floridians, like those attending Venice Theatre Stage II’s current production, can enjoy Cariani’s frequently whimsical look at men and women moving into or out of that common condition.
The play’s program note description says the action takes place on a “slightly surreal” Friday night in the middle of the deepest part of a northern Maine winter, but you wouldn’t have to have “surreal” spelled out for you here, as strange things taking place in a heightened reality are regular occurrences in Cariani’s seriocomic scenes. A woman’s literally broken heart is pieced back together; red bags stuffed with leftover love are returned by another woman to her boyfriend; “falling” in love really means physical falling; and sudden, unexpected kisses are the norm. At times the writing may be a bit too quaint or stretch our credulity too far, but in general Almost, Maine is entertaining.
And the cast of four, under the direction of Kelly Wynn Woodland, attacks their varied roles with abandon. An example or two: Richard Robinson and Jeremy Guerrero as two buddies trading sob stories about their bad dates—and realizing maybe their happiest moments are the ones spent with each other; Jessica Szempruch as the aforementioned broken-hearted woman looking to take in the Northern Lights while camping outside a stranger’s home; Rebecca Phippard and Robinson as another unlikely couple whose relationship veers suddenly from snowmobiles to sex.
Occasionally the tone is more bittersweet, as when a married couple (Phippard and Robinson) realizes on their anniversary that they aren’t having fun together anymore, or when a woman (Szempruch) returns to her home town in search of a long-lost boyfriend in “Story of Hope.” But in general, “Hope” is the right word to describe the show’s approach to the complexities of love.
The play’s “snow”-covered set and sort of mystical lighting (both by Christopher A.D. Parrish) and the rather tingly music provided by Dorian Boyd add to the special atmosphere of Almost, Maine. It’s a pleasant change of pace to visit there.
For tickets to the show, call 488-1115 or go to venicestage.com.
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