“Almost Maine” by John Cariani and directed by Susan G. Kramer is slated to be performed from January 24-26, 2020, at Monteabaro Recital Hall located Howard Community College, Horowitz Visual and Performing Arts Center in Columbia, Maryland presented by the HCC’s Arts Collective.
The play takes place in the mythical Almost, Maine a composite of several towns. It would be located, if it were real, in the sparsely populated northern part of the state, not near the coast. It is a place of potato farms and is close to Canada. It is also an area on the contiguous United States that is far enough north to experience the Northern Lights, or aurora borealis that light up the winter sky.
What makes “Almost Maine” unique is that each scene covers a period of ten minutes starting around 8:50 P.M. and ending a little after 9 P.M. on a Friday night in the middle of winter just when the Northern Lights are set to appear.
Although the play can be done with only four actors, Kramer has cast a larger group, each with their own short role for their ten or so minutes in time. There are eight Scenes with a Prologue, Interlogue, and Epilogue.
If you have ever fallen in or out of love, you will find ‘Almost, Maine’ as enchanting as the aurora borealis. This play runs for a limited time so try to catch it if you can.
All the scenes have love as their theme: new love, comfortable love, lost love, discovered love. Each one is cleverly unique. The Prologue, Interlogue and Epilogue are about two young lovers just discovering love. Pete (Ian O. Collins) and Ginette (Dana Fleischer) cuddle under the stars. As they profess love, Pete gets metaphysical and that seems to push Ginette away. During the Interlogue, we see him pining for her and self-reflecting. And the Epilogue? Well, I will let you find out.
The first scene is called “Her Heart.” A woman arrives to watch the Northern Lights. She is a tourist who came to this spot just to see them. She is told by a man that this is his yard. Her name is Glory (Karen Eske) and his is East (Bruce Leipold). She appears to be dealing with the loss of her husband. She clutches a white bag that winds up in East’s possession. We gradually learn the contents of the bag and about love at first sight.
In “Sad & Glad” we see a couple in a bar. Sandrine (Morgan Marsden) has run into her ex-boyfriend, Jimmy (Keith Becraft). Jimmy would like to get back together but not Sandrine who seems to have moved on. Maia Krapcho plays the affable waitress trying to get them drinks.
“This Hurts” has Steve (Diego Esmolo) and Marvalyn (Cloe Dixon) bumping (literally) into each other in the laundry room of their apartment. Steve has some genetic disease where he can’t feel pain. She is in a shaky relationship. Sometimes, loves just hits you on the head.
In “Getting in Back” Lendall (Lochlan Shea Belford) and Gayle (Nya Stevens) are breaking up. She brings him back all the love he gave in large bags. She wants the love she has given him back, too, but he hands her only one small box.
“They Fell” is what happens when friends, Randy (Bryan Thompson) and Chad (Colin Riley) find out that their friendship may be more than they bargained for. Falling in love in this scene may be more physical than we realize.
One of the sadder scenes is “Where It Went.” A married couple Phil (Gareth Kelly) and Marci (Melissa Paper) are finishing up an evening of ice skating. One of her shoes is missing, and suddenly, they must sit and confront the fact that their relationship has changed – and not for the better.
“The Story of Hope” is the most unusual of the group. Hope (Jesalyn Gordon) has returned to Almost, Maine to tell her old love she wants to answer his proposal of marriage after several years. However, when she arrives by taxi after riding over 150 miles from the airport, she finds a different person living in his house. It is a woman played by Mayumi B. Griffie. As we find out who this mysterious person is, we learn that being crushed by lost love can really change a person.
Finally, in “Seeing the Thing” Dave (Daniel Johnston) wants to take his long-term friendship with Rhonda (Sarah Luckadoo) up a notch. After a night of snowmobile riding, they must come to a decision to either carry this further, which everyone in town thinks they should, or go backward.
All the actors seem perfect for their roles. They all bring a sense of reality and even sweetness into this odd interpretation of love. This is truly an ensemble production and each piece of the pie is a work of art, or love, of its own. The talented cast helps make each scene its own story.
This is partly true due to Cariani’s writing. I particularly like the way he gives ethereal things, for example, love, pain, or heartbreak, a physical presence.
However, much of it is because of the expert direction of Kramer. She keeps us engrossed whether it is with slapstick in “This Hurts” or the joy of seeing the Northern Lights on stage with the characters as we do in “Her Heart.” The play has a sense of joy with touches of sadness.
A great deal of the atmosphere created is due to the Lighting Design of Eric Moore. The stage is used primarily as a concert venue, but Moore’s lighting really makes us feel those Northern Lights.
Chania Hudson, Props Design, Austin Sapp, Sound Design and Jessica Welch, Costume Design, help enhance this most interesting play.
If you have ever fallen in or out of love, you will find “Almost, Maine” as enchanting as the aurora borealis. This play runs for a limited time so try to catch it if you can.
Running Time: Two hours and 10 minutes with an Intermission.