Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Faulkner: "Almost, Maine"

Since 2004, Joseph Cariani's Almost, Maine has been one of the most popular plays at high schools and colleges around the country, and is now gracing the Faulkner University Dinner Theatre's stage.

In a series of some eleven vignettes, director Jason Clark South's cast of four actors play multiple roles in mostly two-character scenes all of which are set in the fictitious isolated and unincorporated town of "Almost" [hence the name] Maine, and where several of its citizens fall in and out of love in serious and comical ways.

Some of the plays more cloyingly saccharined takes on love and romantic relationships are abetted with elements of magical realism [a lost shoe unexpectedly drops from out of nowhere; a repair man attempts to fix a woman's broken heart that she carries in a paper sack], yet they retain their doggedly optimistic stance.

Allison Turberville, Joe Vasquez, Blake Williams, and Emily Woodring step in and out of their roles in Mr. South's colorful and amusing costumes [lots of winter wear suitable for a USA-Canada border town in winter when the aurora borealis are occasionally displayed on the backdrop]; and though they demonstrate significant comfort in each role, a greater variety of pace and energy and a stronger delineation of their quirky behavior would enhance each moment.

Unfortunately, there are lengthy scene changes caused by large and unwieldy set pieces that are unnecessarily complex (though nicely rendered), and allow audiences to disengage from the action.

Nonetheless, we are entertained by the various situations and declarations of love, and while some liberties have been taken with the text, we can laugh at the outrageousness of people literally "falling" in love, or sob at a broken relationship due to lack of communication, or watch as a couple struggle to admit their love for each other --- sound familiar?