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Loves Fresh and, Sometimes, Sad

By Marsden Epworth, Lakeville Journal


Love shines. It dies, too. And it appears in unpredictable places: between buddies, between strangers, between longtime lovers.

That’s what “Almost, Maine” is all about: eight minuscule plays that tell us language counts, so does taking chances. So does quitting when there’s nothing left. That happens too, sometimes.

John Cariani’s imaginary place, Almost, Maine, if it were real, would be in the most northern part of the state, where winters cling from October to May and the population spreads itself out at about 11 persons for each square mile.

And maybe it’s the northern lights, the massive and empty sky, the unrelenting cold, the unrelenting scent of pine trees, but everyone is a little cracked.

Even the people who just turn up there. Like Glory (Robin Maitland) in “Her Heart.”

Glory arrives one Friday night and sets up camp in a stranger’s  front yard. She wants to see her husband’s course along the aurora borealis to heaven.

She wants to apologize.

For killing him.

Sort of.

East (Michael Ritts), the stranger with the front yard, is a repairman by trade. And before this story ends, he has made clear that even broken hearts can be fixed.

But not always. In “Where It Went,” Marci and Phil (Adrienne Marra Brown and Michael Wright) come to see they are too lonely with each other to stay married.

Mostly, though, Cariani’s people are struck and amazed by each other, notably in “They Fell.”

Randy and Chad (David Martin and Christopher Smith) are buddies who have had their disappointments with women. Bad disappointments.

Before long, though, in a delightful play on words and some loose-jointed theatrical antics, the two see where true, or at least amazing, love lies, at last. With each other.

Coriani has delightful people here: Steve (Martin) suffers from “congenital analgesia.” He can’t feel pain so he must list all the things that could injure him. But some injuries, he learns,  like those from a beautiful woman, are worth the hurt.

And there is Rhonda (Brown), a tomboy who is amazed to see that guys are good for more than snowmobiling with.

“Almost, Maine” has been around since 2004, and now and then critics have knocked its sweet, hopeful, eccentric ways. But this play is a fine choice for New Milford’s TheatreWorks, an institution devoted to a wary, even baleful, view of the holidays, like last year’s “Season’s Greetings” about bad behavior at Christmas, and “Mrs. Bob Cratchit’s Wild Christmas Binge” the year before, a piece bent on knocking the sentimental wind out of holiday standards.

But if TheatreWorks  is breaking its stance on the season this year, it has chosen a delightful way to do it, with wonderful actors and very inventive directing by Glenn R. Couture and Robin Frome.

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