REVIEW: “Almost Maine” – short and sweet
Love is in the air in the sleepy town of Almost, Maine. One cold Friday night, nine pairs explore what the word means to them in 9 short vignettes. Each episode are independent from the next and range from charming to cloying to questionable.
This John Cariani play is the most produced play in North American high schools. This is not surprising. Each scene runs for around ten minutes, and only need two actors to carry it through. But the appeal to younger audiences, I presume, is more than logistics. It sells simple bite-sized love stories that are either amusing or melodramatic, with punchlines that have as much impact as a love quote.
It’s full of cliches, you see. And most of the time these cliches are laid on pretty thickly. One woman has a broken heart and we see her carrying it around in a paper bag (“Her Heart”). In another episode, a man was unable to feel pain until he fell in love with the girl next door (“This Hurts”). But, it’s not the cartoonish way cliches are used that take away from the would-be charm of the material. There’s a lot of kissing going on, and not all of them solicited. All the kiss-stealing takes away from the romance or, indeed, the comedy of it.
It must be said, however, that some vignettes, are downright adorable. In one, two people realize they love each other by literally falling from where they stood (“They Fell”) and in another, an unfortunate mistake leads to kismet (“Sad and Glad”).
Director Bart Guingona and actors Caisa Borromeo, Natalie Everett, Reb Atadero, and Jamie Wilson elevated Cariani’s material. It is due to Ms. Borromeo and Mr. Atadero’s chemistry that a couple quantifying their love for each other with physical sacks of “love” (“Getting it Back”) isn’t completely absurd. And Ms. Everett and Mr. Wilson’s performance in “Where It Went” as a married couple at odds made the punchline more resonant than ridiculous.
While some vignettes are better than others, the good ones are certainly worth watching.
Have you seen the show? What did you think?