‘Almost, Maine’ warms hearts with superb acting and stage production
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“Almost, Maine,” the UIS Theatre’s spring production, brings an endearing and strikingly relatable – though surprisingly supernatural – series of small town tales to the Studio Theater.
The play, written by John Cariani and first performed in 2004, consists of eight full scenes and a prologue, interlogue, and epilogue. Each individual scene depicts two different characters on a single night in an almost-town in Maine, exploring the concepts of love and loss through different perspectives.
Cariani once described the play as “A really funny but really sad romance,” and the description is apt. The show takes the audience on a rollercoaster, enrapturing us in characters we just met through singular glimpses of their complex lives.
The nine-person cast brings the tales to life in each scene.
Alicia Madden and Robert Rickey provide a perfect depiction of an awkward encounter with an ex-flame, before Madden goes on to draw us into a desperate woman’s hope for the future she could have had, and Rickey brings us along on the journey of a man quite literally falling in love.
Shane Graham somehow fully encompasses one half of a long-term relationship, a wide-eyed man figuring out the difference between love and fear, and a cowboy learning not to fear love. And Christopher V. Marbaniang shows us a man who had hope taken from him and a young boy who still holds on, even when all hope is seemingly lost.
The play itself is full of give and take. The prologue, interlogue, and epilogue show us the beginning and possible end of young love, while other scenes show us the start of one couple’s “forever” and the end of a different couple’s “forever.”
Throughout the tales, the audience can’t help but keep their eyes on the circular stage, as theseats surround it. This perspective adds the omnipotent sensation the audience possesses as they peer into the lives of supposedly everyday people.
However, the audience is regularly reminded that not all is as normal as we may think about this almost-town. Whether it’s the not-quite-right interactions between the townspeople, the odd medical conditions, or the seemingly impossible abandonment of the laws of physics, time, and space. Even the intermission playlist, comprised of smooth, electric numbers, keeps the audience wrapped up in the otherworldly ambiance of “Almost, Maine.”
These comically abnormal flavors keep the play palatable as we watch the painfully realistic scenes of a young woman demanding her love back from an unsuspecting boyfriend or a couple realizing that their time together has come and gone.
All in all, the play was an excellent way to spend an evening. Audience members left the theater enthusiastically reliving their favorite scenes, and I walked home with a new list of mystic, mellow songs to download.