Archikulture Digest

Almost Maine

Almost Maine

By John Cariani

Directed by Julia Allardice Gagne

Valencia Character Company, Orlando FL</strong>

If you go far enough up country in Maine they give up naming places and just assign them grid numbers. While this lacks in the Romance of Place department, the town of Almost suffers from a surfeit of regular romance but with a distinctively practical and concrete taste. These people fall in and out of love but with the gimmick that every relational shift makes its catch phrase concrete. For instance, Glory (Ashleigh Ann Gardner) suffers from a broken heart, and carries it around in a paper bag like a set of broken eyeglasses, hoping for a repair. She lucks into local repair man East (Sean Michael Drake) when she sets up camp in his front yard, and he whips out the super glue while she watches the northern lights carry the spirit of her cheating ex-hubby to Valhalla. Another very funny skit has Randy (Drake) and Chad (Michael Martin) drinking beers and commiserating about the worst dates they ever had. Fed up with dating they begin falling in love with each other, but mistake it for slipping on the ice. Later, the saddest segment of the evening features Phil (John Clayton) and Marci (Beatrice Roberts) finishing a tense evening of ice skating and squabble over whether or not they had fun. Pro tip: If you have to ask, the answer is “no.” Her shoe is lost, and about that time the idea drops on them that this whole thing just isn’t working. Surrounding these vignettes we have Pete (Colin Taylor) and Ginette (Martha Gibbons) sitting on a bench, wordlessly longing for each other and drawing laughs from the audience. Ginette wants to be as close as possible but 25000 long miles stands in her way. When she returns, we all applauded her superb effort.

“Almost Maine” has had a few readings around town, but this is the first full production. A very cool set complete with twinkling stars and icebergs propped up along the stage add to the chilly winter scene, but the show is powerful enough to stand with almost no staging. Director Gagne gets excellent comic timing out of her students – the obvious gags are suppressed and more subtle facets of the show predominate. Clayton takes some serious blows to the head in “It Hurts”, the aforementioned Drake and Martin’s tumbling act was some of the best physical comedy I’ve seen, and the snowmobile stripper number in “Seeing The Thing” shows that you can have sex anywhere, anytime if you want it bad enough. “Almost Maine” is almost the best show I’ve seen all year, and a great introduction to theater and the joys of the VCC.

For more information on Valencia Character Company, please visit http://valenciacc.edu/theater/


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