BWW Review: ALMOST, MAINE at DreamWrights Center For Community Arts
Almost, Maine is a story about life and love, told through a series of moments in a town that never got organized enough to be a town. This play by John Cariani, premiered in Portland, Maine in 2004, and is now delighting audiences at DreamWrights Center for Community Arts. Under the direction of Ernesto Rosas, 16 cast members and a top-notch production crew take the audience on a journey to Almost, Maine-it's a journey of laughter, tears, heartbreak and hope.
The lighting, set, and costumes assist in this journey, transforming the Studio Theatre into a cold, snowy winter night in a small, almost-town under the northern lights. Unlike a traditional play where audiences get to know characters over the course of two hours, in Almost, Maine, characters are only on stage for about ten minutes. The director and the cast at DreamWrights have managed to dive so deeply into their characters that, even in those few moments, the audience comes to know and care for them and becomes invested in the outcome of their scene.
There are too many beautiful moments in this production to mention them all. The show opens with Janelle Missinger and Andrew Smith sitting on a bench looking at the stars. Missinger and Smith fill this scene with an adorable awkwardness, with both characters seeming unsure of themselves and their relationship. The blocking in this scene is brilliant, visually echoing the themes of distance and closeness the characters are discussing. The moment between these two characters is the only one that is revisited later in the play, bringing the story back to the start.
One of my favorite scenes is "Her Heart", which features Jay Schmuck and Bergen Sunday. There were occasionally times when their lines were difficult to hear, but the interactions between Schmuck and Sunday are beautiful and genuine. Sunday's character comes across as simultaneously sad, desperate, and hopeful. Schmuck, as Easton the repairman, at first appears gruff and introverted, but later demonstrates great depth of emotion, offering Sunday's character an anchor of hope.
"This Hurts" is another scene that particularly stood out for me. Tyler Chick and Theresa Strange appear in this scene that revolves around the topics of hurt and fear. Chick and Strange have terrific timing and react well to one another. Their actions and reactions feel authentic and spontaneous, lending a great sense of realism to their scene.
Sarah Bolger and Dan Griffin give an energetic performance in "Seeing the Thing". Griffin's character is passionate and vulnerable, putting his heart on the line. Bolger infuses her character with swagger, building up emotional walls. Both actors have great physicality in the scene, making it both funny and engaging-the audience is ready to cheer for them in the end!
These are just a few of the many touching, funny, and inspiring scenes in the production of Almost, Maine at DreamWrights. The entire cast, which includes (in addition to those already mentioned) Chris Drinkut, Amber Gamber, Joel Persing, Heather Stoll, Jason Sabol, Jessica Oakhem, Meagan Given, and Daryll Perkins, Jr., deserve a heartfelt round of applause. The characters truly come to life in this production, drawing the audience in and giving everyone a glimpse into their own hearts, minds, and relationships.
If you didn't get your tickets for this show already, you are out of luck, because it is sold out for the entire run! For information on upcoming shows at DreamWrights, check out www.dreamwrights.org.