“Almost, Maine” makes a statement
Caelin Miltko | Monday, February 16, 2015
I had a fairly good idea of what to expect when I went to see “Almost, Maine” this past Thursday. I’d been to rehearsal Monday and saw a couple of the scenes in rehearsal. I’d read the script and was expecting there to be moments when I’d laugh, when I’d tear up and when I’d just want to squeal “awww” in the most girl-ish way possible.
The incredible thing about plays is that no matter how many times you read them over, nothing compares to seeing them performed. “Almost, Maine” was no exception. The Student Players did a brilliant job of making the play come to life all without falling into the trap the playwright warns of in his introduction: that a play can easily become too “cute.”
Many of the scenes in the play are made out of literal interpretations of various love clichés. Glory’s heart is literally broken, Randy and Chad literally fall in love with each other and Danny Harding literally loses Hope. These scenes could easily be overdone or tacky. But in the Student Players’ production, the cast and crew manage to hit a perfect balance between cheesy and sweet.
Particularly notable in this production were the comedic scenes. All of the actors showed remarkable skills in not only speaking the jokes aloud but also acting them out; the layers of meaning embedded in each one were both obvious and compelling.
In the two most serious scenes in the production, one between Daniel (Tommy Favorite) and Hope (Elizabeth Leader) and the other with Marci (Mary Patono) and Phil (Kelly Burgess), each member of the cast showed their ability to quickly transition the mood of the play from its earlier lighthearted, cheerful scenes to something a little heavier.
In the brief moments that the play considers the more complicated and uglier aspects of love, “Almost, Maine” manages to bring a heart-wrenching mood upon its audience. Still, director Paul Kuczynski’s promise that audience members’ moods would lifted by the end of the production was not empty.
Even though both serious scenes are near the end of the production, perhaps the funniest scene in the play finishes it out. The story of Rhonda (Emmy Shoenbauer) and Dave (Tommy Clarke) is particularly funny; it’s enough to restore faith in love in all but the most cynical audience member.
Particularly noticeable in this scene is the final message that persistence and patience pay off in terms of love. Despite their many miscommunications and differences, Rhonda and Dave manage to negotiate a relationship that could easily dissolve before it ever begins. They also manage to do this in the funniest way possible.
“Almost, Maine” is perhaps the perfect play for Valentine’s Day. At times it is almost sickeningly sweet, reminding the audience of those couples whose love one envies and hates to witness. At other times, it is heart-wrenching and painful, as the audience is asked to contemplate how one deals with the end of a long and once happy relationship.
The vignette style of “Almost, Maine” is perfect for what it tries to convey about love and its place in all of our lives. Each scene is short and with the exception of the Prologue/Interlogue/Epilogue story, once a character leaves the set, the same character never reappears. The audience will never know for sure if Marvalyn leaves Eric or if East and Glory manage to negotiate a relationship.
It seems to be a particularly appropriate way to contemplate the nature of love. There are many different ways to interpret the emotion and many ways in which it sneaks into our lives. But, just as in the play, there is never a guarantee of a happy ending. By giving us quick snapshots into the lives of many characters, “Almost, Maine” manages to convey the myriad of feelings love can create without veering off into the completely cheesy or entirely depressing.