BWW REVIEWS: Trinity Street Players Bring Love to ALMOST, MAINE
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by Jeff Davis
Almost, Maine is one strange little show. The only thing rivals the quirkiness John Cariani's eccentric vignettes about love in a small fictional town in Northen Maine is the show's history. Almost, Maine was a disastrous Off-Broadway flop in 2006. It closed within a month and lost $800,000.
Flash forward seven years, and Cariani's once ridiculed show is now one of the most popular plays among high schools and regional theaters. It's even de-throned Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream as the most frequently produced play among high schools.
Trinity Street Player's current production of the play clearly illustrates why Almost, Maine is enjoying such popularity and success. It's fun. It's quirky, bizzare, and spastic, but it's fun.
Cariani's short scenes and vignettes illustrate that he's a young playwright to watch. Though there are some moments that don't work quite as well (Cariani has a penchant for having characters kiss strangers they've just met, an action that would more likely get you a restraining order than a 1st date), his debut play is incredibly strong. You won't leave the theater with a new and profound outlook on life, but you will leave with a smile.
Director Cathy Jones focuses her attention on developing that sense of fun. There are plenty of moments that elicit an audible "aww" from the audience as the tender and loving sides of characters are revealed. Her blocking, particular in moments of physical comedy, is inspired. A moment involving an ironing board that just won't collapse is quite funny. Jones's decision to extend the humor into the scene changes, in which her two stage hands display their frustration with each other by fighting over props and set pieces, adds to the fun.
Jones has also assembled a strong cast of comedic actors, all of which take on a handful of characters. Sara Burke is fantastic as the earnest and cute Glory, but she is even more fun as the tough and guarded Rhonda. Grant Hudson is particularly exceptional as a young man who can't feel any pain, and Derek Jones is hysterical as a man who realizes that the only person he loves is his best friend. Camille Latour gives strong performances in her comedic scenes, but her stand-out comes in one of Cariani's few dramatic scenes in which she plays a woman who answers a marriage proposal several years late.
With its funny text, strong performances, and brilliant direction, Almost, Maine is a love letter to love itself. Guys who still need to plan the perfect Valentine's Day date, this is it.
Running time: Approximately 2 hours including one 15 minute intermission.
ALMOST, MAINE, produced by the Trinity Street Players, plays the First Austin Church at 901 Trinity, Austin, TX now thru February 17th.
Performances are Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30pm and Sundays at 2:30pm.
Tickets are free.
To reserve seats and for more information, please visit www.trinitystreetplayers.com