Humor, love & magic in "Almost, Maine"
By: Marilyn Rowland, August 26, 2011
Almost, Maine, is a small, almost-town, they say, in northern Maine, 163 miles north of Bangor. It is populated by a host of offbeat characters, who think and do things just a little bit differently. And therein lies the fun in Almost, Maine, produced by the Woods Hole Theater Company at the Woods Hole Community Hall through Saturday.
In this series of nine lighthearted and often magical and heart-warming vignettes— each of which take place on the same cold winter night—love is found, lost, spurned, misunderstood, and rediscovered as the characters experience the joy of love’s awakening, or slowly suffocate without it.
The characters are ordinary small town residents who look at the world in a slightly surreal way. Whimsical sight gags and clever plays on words abound as characters literally fall in love, find love, and return it.
Directed by Alex Colacchio, who also plays six characters in the play, Almost, Maine was written by John Cariani (best known for his role in TV's Law and Order), who grew up in Presque Isle, Maine. It was developed by the Cape Cod Theatre Project (CCTP) in 2002.
Though the play closed a month after it opened off-Broadway in 2006 (it was criticized for being too sugary sweet), the play has gone on to be one of the CCTP’s most widely-performed plays, with productions throughout the world. According to Wikipedia, it is currently the most frequently performed play in high schools.
The cast, which consists of Jamie Popovics of Mashpee, Melissa Ringgard and Ronald Ringgard III of Monument Beach, and Colacchio of Falmouth, does a good job portraying these earnest—if slightly eccentric and literal-minded—characters.
Colacchio shines in his physical comedy bits and with characters who seem to consider each word carefully before speaking. Ron Ringgard grounds the play with his solid performances—and limply collapses when called for, as if his legs just turned to rubber. Melissa Ringgard, his wife, plays several down-to-earth women, while Popovics plays more excitable, somewhat ditzy women.
Those quirky Mainers
In one of the quirkier vignettes, Popovics, as Glory, camps out on a stranger’s lawn to watch the Northern Lights. She has heard that the locals are friendly and will not object. Colacchio, as East, sees her from his window and comes down to find out what she is doing there so late. Clutching a worn paper bag, she explains that her husband has recently died and that she is here to pay her respects to him.
“The Northern Lights,” she says, “are really the torches that the recently departed carry with them so that they can find their way to heaven….And, see, I didn’t leave things well with him, so I was hoping I could come here and say good-bye to him.”
It gets even more interesting as she explains how her husband died and what is in the bag. East is smitten, and he knows just what to do.
Popovics is perhaps a little over the top in this tale, chattering too quickly, her head skyward, her words directed at the ceiling. It takes a little effort to understand her at times, but the convoluted story she relates is an engaging one and finally does make sense.
In another story, Colacchio as Dave and Ms. Ringgard as Rhonda return from a snowmobiling sort-of-a-date and talk on the front porch. They are friends, but Rhonda, a tomboy, has no knowledge of love and recoils from the subject. Dave shows her a mystery picture he has painted just for her and tries to get her to see the meaning in it, by “sneaking up on it.”
Eventually, after the somewhat goofy, but persistent, Dave kisses her, she grasps the meaning of the painting and is eager to go on to the next step.
In one of the funniest scenes of the evening, they both tear off layer after layer of clothing before rushing inside.
Not all of the vignettes work. One involves a lot of shouting between an unhappily married couple, and the ending seems inconclusive. Set changes between scenes are time-consuming, a bit noisy, and do not seem entirely necessary, given that many of the settings are similar. Perhaps a backdrop of the starry Maine sky would have been sufficient, except for the indoor scenes. Appropriately chosen pop music helps to fill the time and reinforces the mood.
For the most part, Almost, Maine is an entertaining evening that showcases the talents of four young actors. It is a reaffirmation of the magic of love, even when love does not quite work out as one might expect.
“Almost, Maine” continues Thursday, Friday, and Saturday at 8 PM at the Woods Hole Community Hall, 68 Water Street, Woods Hole. Tickets are $15 and may be reserved by calling 508-540-6525.