Theatre Guild of Simsbury Puts ‘Almost, Maine’ On the Map

East (Wilson Keithline) tells Glory (Penny Carroll) why she can't find Almost, Maine on the map. Credit: Theatre Guild of Simsbury

East (Wilson Keithline) tells Glory (Penny Carroll) why she can’t find Almost, Maine on the map. Credit: Theatre Guild of Simsbury

You won’t find Almost, Maine on a traditional map. But in the Theatre Guild of Simsbury‘s production of John Cariani‘s Almost, Maine, you’ll find it in your heart.

“See, to be a town, you gotta get organized. And we never got around to gettin’ organized, so … we’re just Almost,” East (Wilson Keithline, of Simsbury) tells a stranger named Glory (Penny Carroll, of Simsbury) camped out in his yard looking for the Northern Lights.

The Mainers you’ll meet on your trip just almost get to where they want to be in love and their hearts take them on a journey of self discovery to find out what love means to them.

Almost, Maine is like Love Actually meets The Twilight Zone of metaphors. The play, directed by Simsbury resident Karen Sidel, is broken up into nine vignettes of love stories. The scenarios explore many facets of love from new romances and rediscovered love to heartbreak and the acceptance of a fading marriage. The vignettes are punctuated with three comical, short and dialogue-light sketches about the first time teenagers Pete (Athan Chekas, of Canton) and Ginette (Melissa Silvanic Veale, of Simsbury) profess their love for each other. 

While the scenes themselves could be their own ten-minute one-act plays, they are connected  by location, time and community as some of the segments reference characters and places from other scenes like the hometown Moose Paddy pub  where Jimmy (Rick Fiocco, of Cheshire) bumps into old flame Sandrine (Christen Feola, of Simsbury) and explains the meaning of his Villian tattoo.

The structure reminded me of a novel of short stories Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout (who, like me, attended Bates College in Lewiston, Maine and has appeared in Avon, Conn. for an author talk). In the book, also set in Maine, each chapter is its own story told from different perspectives, but they are organized in chronological fashion so it reads like a novel. The principal character, Olive Kitteridge is somehow connected to each short story, whether she is our narrator or she’s walking across the scene in someone else’s story.

Almost, Maine is riddled with near science fiction moments of suspended disbelief as vehicles of symbolism and wordplay. A shoe falls from the sky as Phil (Steve O’Brien, of Simsbury) and Marci (Amy Rucci, of Suffield) “wait for the other shoe to drop” in their flickering relationship. Hope (Christy Donahue, of West Hartford) finds her old love (Ron Blanchette, of Ellington) aged as though time has been suspended for her while she contemplates his marriage proposal and returns to give her answer. Gayle (Marilyn Rotondo, of Simsbury) knocks on Lendall’s (Blanchette) door to return bags of the love he gave her and all he can find of her love is one tiny bag. Randy (Tom Raines) and Chad (Rick Fiocco) literally fall in love with each other over and over, sometimes with heavy, potentially painful thuds. Rhonda (Virginia Wolf), a woman who is one of the guys and who’s never been kissed, can’t seem to make out a heartwarming symbol on a painting from her pal Dave (O’Brien) who may want to be more than friends.

While the play does have some very serious moments, it tugs at your heartstrings and makes you feel like a true romantic comedy or dramedy should. Puns, metaphors, slapstick actions and witty humor in the writing give the show the right balance of comedy to make you laugh as enjoyable theater should.

Almost, Maine may always seem to be almost there, but it most certainly arrives.

The original Almost, Maine play was developed by The Cape Cod Theatre Project, according to Cariani’s website. The first Off-Broadway revival production of Almost, Maine wrapped up in February with playwright Cariani, a Tony winner, in the cast. Cariani, of Presque Isle, Maine, is a graduate of Amherst College in Massachusetts and now resides in New York, according to imdb.com On the television screen, he is most known for his role of Julian Beck on Law and Order, the movie database states. Hartford TheaterWorks will stage his 2012 play Love/Sick this spring, according to his website. 

Don’t make Almost, Maine an almost in your calendar. It’s definitely worth a visit.

Doreen Cohn produced the Simsbury show and Laura Garger served as assistant director.

The Theatre Guild of Simsbury’s production of Almost, Maine closes this weekend, running Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. and sunday at 2 p.m. at Eno Memorial Hall in Simsbury (754 Hopmeadow St.). Tickets can be purchased online in advance or at the door.  General admission price is $20 and preferred seating is $25.

The theater group is hosting TGS Night Out on Friday and invites members to join the cast at The Local Grill in Avon on Route 10 after the show. RSVP to theatreguildsimsbury@gmail.com.

For more information on the Theatre Guild of Simsbury, Almost, Maine and the cast, visit www.theatreguildsimsbury.org, like the group on Facebook and follow TGS on its new Twitter account (@SimsburyTheatre)

Writer’s Note: Jessie Sawyer is a member of the Theatre Guild of Simsbury and is a newly elected member to the board. She also created the Theatre Guild of Simsbury Twitter account.

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