Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

January 11, 2010

Almost, Maine

Majestic Theater, West Springfield, MA
through February 14, 2010
by Shera Cohen

"Almost, Maine" is charming, delightful, funny, and sweet. "Almost, Maine" is also poignant, sad, powerful, and harsh. This is a non-existent town located in northern Maine where, on a Friday night, one can see the beauty of the aurora borealis lights, taste moose paddies, and fall in or out of love.

John Cariani's dialogue is as crisp as the cold winter night setting. Scene after scene offers the opportunity for clich├ęd one-liner responses between characters. Yet, the playwright takes the story on a more difficult path. Lines are tossed back and forth, seemingly on one level - then the surprise, or a series of surprises. Cariani's work is clever as he balances the literal meaning of words with ways in which humans understand them; i.e. "falling in love" does not mean to fall on the ground…or does it?

The play is actually a series of vignettes, loosely strung together. Four actors portray many roles each. Every scene is a mini-play about a couple, with actors pairing off in as many ways as the math will permit. Equity actors Sandra Blaney and Dan Whelton perform with non-Equity players Kait Rankins and Tim Cochran. All actors are evenly matched in skill and versatility. To see the range of talent of each player is worth the ticket price. Any one of the foursome shifts from a half-crazed being to a sober and somber person in the time it takes to change a parka. Segues of fast scene changes and minimal props to create both indoor and outdoor settings seem easy, but are probably not. The constant backdrop of stars, projected moving titles, and music help set up each segment.

Director Keith Langsdale, for the most part, orchestrates his quartet smoothly within scenes and between them. On occasion, one actor completely blocks out another. As the play continues to run its course, this will undoubtedly be "fixed."

For theatergoers looking for a "real" play, "Almost, Maine" might not fit their expectations. However, for those seeking fine theatre starring four outstanding actors, a trip to the deep freeze of a pretend town in Maine is worth the trip.