BWW Reviews: ALMOST, MAINE - Almost Perfection!
Almost, Maine/by John Cariani/directed by Martin Papazian/ Hudson Mainstage Theatre/thru Dec. 21, 2014
In Almost, Maine, playwright John Cariani brilliantly weaves his witty words into his collection of nine stand-alone short scenes thread together by their home town and the various townsfolk name-dropped throughout. Cariani possesses an infinity to the subject of love in its many forms- budding innocence, heartbreak, pain, lost, and more. Cariani has an unique knack for taking the most common, mundane sayings and illustrating them in their most literal, sometimes theatre-of-absurd sense. For example; a character named Hope returns home, characters physically fall down as they fall in love, a moment of reckoning is punctuated by a missing shoe dropped from above. Some truly magical moments of theatre!
The most absurd scene "Getting It Back," features Gail (Samantha Sloyan) barging in on Lindell (Peter Breitmayer), her boyfriend of eleven years. Because of his perceived romantic inactions, Gail comes returning the bundles of love (big red laundry bags of love) that Lindell has given her all those years. And to be fair, she asks for all the love she gave Lindell to be given back to her. All Lindell returns fits into a tiny red package. If the tiny red package represents the little love Gail has given Lindell during those years together, Gail seems in denial of the true balance of love-giving between them. This beyond ridiculous set-up actually pays off in heart-melting realism. Bravo to Sloyan and Breitmayer!
Travis Myers and John Lacy nail their scene "They Fell" as best drinking buds. Don't want to give the 'punchline' of this scene away. Just be prepared to laugh out loud- a lot!
Allison Tolman and Dan Warner ever so believably portray a bickering husband and wife on the outs of their marriage in "Where It Went."
Alex Desert and Tyne Stecklein expertly limn exes in a chance meeting at the Almost, Maine bar Moose Paddy in "Sad & Glad." Easy to see their strong (though over) relationship as they finish each other's thoughts and sentences.
Martin Papazian deftly directs his talented ensemble at such a firm, yet care-free pace; the first act of five scenes ends before you know it. Papazian's also effective doing double duty acting in "Her Heart" as a repairman literally repairing the broken heart of Natalie Avital's character. Very sweet scene of the two of them.
As the almost divine trinity of talent (writer, director, actors) ably conveys via Almost, Maine; sweet tales of love don't always end happy. Some, as in real life, end poignantly sad. As a matter of fact, although all the scenes are infused with various absurdities, the actors give their respective situations real heart and realistic humanity. You believe or want to believe their experiences could happen, and possibly happen to you, yourself.
Kudos also to the rest of the gifted cast, each having their individual moments to shine - Cameron Fife, Laura Steigers, Misa Moosekian, Devin Crittenden, Presciliana Esparolini, Steve Fite, Marina Benedict, Lester Purry, and Nell Teare.
Production designer Joseph Hodges utilizes just the right mix of essential set elements (a pair of winter-bare trees, a front porch, various large rocks) and a mood-inducing background soundtrack to accompany the quick, efficient set changes giving the audience just enough time to catch their collective breaths from the climaxes of each preceding scene.
Whereas the geographical locale of Almost, Maine's not a real city; Cariani's Almost, Maine's a real winning gem of entertainment.