The Colony Theatre continues its string of unique and entertaining shows with its current production, “Almost, Maine.” More a series of vignettes about love than a regular multi-act play, “Almost, Maine” delivers a satisfying experience.
Four actors play 19 characters living in the mythical town of Almost, an unorganized territory in Aroostook County, northern Maine, 200 miles from the ocean. It is truly in the middle of nowhere, or as my friend used to say, in the middle of everywhere. There are more moose and trees than people. But that doesn’t stop the residents from having uniquely human feelings, especially feelings of love.
It is 9 o’clock on a typical Friday night in the deep heart of winter. Nine different episodes take place at various locales around Almost. Every episode deals with love — love discovered, love lost, love desperately trying to express itself. The set changes little — it features tall, leafless trees, a door, and a few props — but the actors make up for its simplicity by creating wonderfully real and complex characters who demand our affection.
Each episode is usually limited to two people. It is interesting to witness the chemistry in the various combinations, but favorites do emerge. Donald Sage Mackay is always charming, especially alongside Caroline Kinsolving. In one vignette, he plays a repairman to her widow. He finds her in his front yard, awaiting the Northern Lights, holding a bag of something. It happens to be her heart, brittle as shale and broken to bits. But he’s a repairman so, naturally, he can fix it.
In another, Mackay is friend to tomboy and fellow snowmobiler Kinsolving, but he wants to be more. He makes a painting for her to express his feelings, but not until she relents to her first kiss can she even see what it obviously is.
Playwright John Cariani uses a kooky technique of interpreting idioms about love very literally. This approach could have backfired miserably, but in the able hands of the talented new playwright, the experienced director David Rose and the versatile actors, the moments are really, really funny. For instance, the legs of two characters keep inexplicably buckling underneath them and they collapse to the ground. Confused, they finally realize they’re “falling” in love. Each 15-minute vignette features a little gem like this.
The other two actors, Dee Ann Newkirk and Louis Lotorto, are also amazingly good. In “Episode 2: SAD AND GLAD,” Lotorto’s character, Jimmy, plays a beer-swilling loner down at the Moose Paddy when suddenly the cause of his loneliness happens by. It’s his ex-girlfriend Sandrine (Newkirk). We slowly and heartbreakingly realize she’s at the bar for a party — a bachelorette party — for her — because she’s getting married — tomorrow. The twist at the end of this scene gets the biggest laugh of the night. You’ll just have to see it for yourself.
I have been wondering if, in the play’s title, the author is implying the characters are “almost” whole people, looking for love in this forgotten, backcountry place. But the innocent, direct honesty of these “Maine-iacs” presents a stark and welcome contrast to the sometimes insincere, air-kissing folks of places like Los Angeles.
It is difficult to classify this work by Maine native Cariani (also an actor, whom some of you may know better as the character Beck, the eager forensics technician on “Law & Order”). But his play has won critical acclaim and placements on top 10 lists for good reason. “Almost, Maine” is sensitive, funny and totally charming.
LISA DUPUY is a freelance writer from La Crescenta. She went to Houlton, Maine, in Aroostook County every summer of her teenage years. LISA DUPUY is a freelance writer from La Crescenta. She went to Houlton, Maine, in Aroostook County every summer of her teenage years.