Ever Been in Love? Almost, Maine is the Play for You!
There is nothing ‘almost’ about Almost, Maine. It is a thoroughly engaging and entertaining romantic comedy about the quest for enduring love – which, after all, is just about everyone’s ‘main’ pursuit at one time or another.
Now on stage at TheatreWorks in New Milford, the two-act play presents eight superb actors who portray 19 characters in nine simple, yet compelling vignettes, each examining a facet of the timeless struggle to express, receive and accept true love. If you think the angst of intense love is reserved only for teenagers, this play will happily show you otherwise.
The setting is a cold, Friday evening in winter, in a rural town called Almost, Maine. The town is so named because the residents just haven’t gotten around to actually organizing as a town. And it is an absolutely ideal metaphor that underscores the reluctance of the characters to take the giant step and express their affection -- along with the immense risk that comes from either acting or not acting on their romantic impulses.
Also key to the play’s success is its reliance on the general stereotypical view of rural Americans as somewhat inarticulate. It works here because there may be no time other time in our life when expressing our true feelings is so universally difficult.
The play is exceedingly fast-paced, with crisply defined characters dealing with painful choices and realistic and attention-grabbing dialog. The staging and lighting is simple yet elegant and serves to focus attention on the various actors – all of whom are accomplished and give the play vibrancy and believability.
Two notable younger performers are Kelly McMurray and David Martin, who play five roles between them. Both attended the Canterbury School in New Milford and possess a slew of acting credentials. David plays both an overly logical character who seems unable to love because he is also unable to feel pain and later a gay character who is coming to grips with his just-discovered gayness. The scene where he and his lover are ‘falling’ in love is priceless. Kelly brings intensity to her roles, which helps to make palpable the frustration that can come when love is going awry.
Michael Ritts is an accomplished performer and well cast in his two roles where his ability to portray characters with a world-weary, get to the point demeanor just seems to make it all look easy.
Adrienne Mara Brown and Michael Wright team up in a very poignant vignette that centers on the dilemma that virtually who are in love face at one time or another -- the slow erosion of thoughtfulness that, if left unchecked, will eventually rob a relationship of passion. In another scene, Adrienne portrays a tomboyish character who breaks out of her self-imposed limits to discover her femininity.
Robin Maitland is superb in her two roles, the first a flower-child sort of character who simply camps out on the front lawn of a resident to witness the spectacle of the Northern Lights, and later as a successful career woman who returns after many years, having long regretted not responding to an offer of marriage.
Christopher Smith does an admirable job playing a simple sort of character reminiscent of Darrell, or his other brother Darrell, in the Bob Newhart Show, along with his other two roles, a gay man who has unwittingly fallen in love with his best friend, and a kind-hearted soul who gently lights a spark in Adrienne and opens a world of passion to her.
Stacey-Lee Erickson very effectively portrays a young lady who has found her true love, and tries to walk a fine line in acknowledging a previous relationship while let her would-be suitor know that it is over. She is even more powerful in her second role where she tries to end a relationship because she has been keeping track and has given far, far more than she has received in return.
There is something for everyone in this play and it would be perfect to stage on Valentine’s Day. Fortunately, you don’t have to wait that long. You can see it as soon as this weekend.