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'Almost, Maine' a sweetheart production

By Joanne Greco Rochman, Republican-American


Valentines don't usually come around until February, but New Milford's TheatreWorks has posted one sweetheart of a show on its boards for this holiday season.

"Almost, Maine" by John Cariani is treated to a delightfully funny and insightfully sensitive production co-directed by Glenn R. Couture and Robin Frome. Not a thought-provoking play, this is rather a series of vignettes tied together by locale, which happens to be is a mythical town called Almost, Maine.

Here, where the northern lights can turn a cold winter evening into a night of magic, residents can find love, feel loss and even have their broken hearts mended. Though the stories that unfold often seem whimsical, they are nonetheless grounded in reality. They are all about matters of the heart.

One story features two men who have a running bet on who makes the worst date. One says his date told him that he smelled bad; the other's story is even worse. They agree that no woman could possibly like them as much as they like each other. Then, although they are reluctant to admit it, they realize they really love each other. It's an "ah-ha!" moment.

Another story focuses on a woman who never replied to a marriage proposal. Years later, single and lonely, she tracks down the gent. She's happy to find him, but this is no happily ever after story. He never pined much for her and wasted no time finding a woman who was happy to say "yes."

Then there's the story of the broken-hearted woman whose cheating husband died. She camps out on a stranger's lawn to see the northern lights. She has heard that the lights are the torches of the dead marching towards heaven.

She wants to feel that her husband can get there even though he has broken her heart. Happily, the stranger's lawn she camps out on belongs to a repair man.

He can repair anything including broken hearts. Remember, a gentle hand wrote this and the directors and cast keep that gentleness intact even when loneliness looms close by.

There are other stories ranging from syrupy to surprising. In one story a man can feel no pain. He gets hit in the head with an ironing board and though he doesn't feel the pain, the audience lets out an audible groan.

Not all of the stories are of equal stature, but they do add up to an entertaining evening thanks to the inspired performances of an outstanding ensemble. The eight-member cast plays multiple roles and includes:   Christopher Smith, Kelly McMurray, Michael Ritts, Robyn Maitland, Adrienne Marra Brown, Michael Wright, David Martin and Stacy-Lee Erickson.

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