Almost, Maine is like the world’s best greeting card: it’s very, very clever, charming, and thin.
In the nine scenes of John Cariani’s script, we meet as many sets of lovers, would-be lovers, and former lovers. Aside from the couple who appear in the framing device, none of the characters show up more than once, so each of the scenes is a self-contained story.
In an ongoing joke—and it’s a good one—the script literalizes the language of love. A woman whose heart is broken carries the pieces around in a paper bag. And, in a truly hilarious sequence, when two characters fall in love, they stagger, stumble, and keel over.
It’s all a bit twee, though. Several scenes contain kisses that are afforded the kind of transformative magic usually reserved for fairytales. The repeated notion that romance is essential to happiness quickly becomes cloying. And, partly because none of the narratives is sustained, none of them have much complexity. Two of the nine end in melancholy, but, in Almost, Maine, love never bleeds.
That said, director Kaitlin Williams and her team give the script a handsome, and—within the parameters of the text—heartfelt production.
I especially enjoyed Peter Carlone, who is a master of eccentricity. Here, he plays a series of weirdoes who open their hearts and you can’t help but feel for him every damn time. I also appreciated the restrained authenticity of Giovanni Mocibob’s characterizations, the tenderness of Baraka Rahmani’s work, and the effervescence of Kim Larson’s.
Thanks to set designer Lauchlin Johnston and costumer Amy McDougall, this production of Almost, Maine is a treat to look at. Johnston washes everything—the floor, the walls, and all of the furniture and props—in bluish white to evoke a New England winter. And, above the action, he creates a universe of white objects—a dish rack, a bike helmet, a spray bottle—that speak to the script’s celebration of the concrete and quotidian. Harmonizing with Johnston’s vision, McDougall clothes the actors in subtly pleasing neutrals.
I prefer material with more heft, but the script for Almost, Maine is endearing in many ways. And the team from Pacific Theatre has done a solid job of mounting it.
ALMOST, MAINE By John Cariani. Directed by Kaitlin Williams. A Pacific Theatre production at Pacific Theatre on Thursday, November 30. Continues until December 16.
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