Welcome to Almost, Maine. You won’t find it on a map as its citizens were never organized enough to get it declared an official town. The almost-town has a mill, a bar, a snowmobiling club, and a couple of dozen residents whose main activity is falling in (or out) of love.
That’s the premise behind John Cariani’s Almost, Maine. It’s a series of short two-handers on the subject of love that run from the whimsical to the bittersweet. Rohnert Park’s Spreckels Performing Arts Center has a production directed by Anderson Templeton running now through April 10.
Each member of the ensemble cast of six (John Browning, Skylar Evans, Serena Elize Flores, Molly Larsen-Shine, Allie Nordby, Brandon Wilson) takes on multiple roles as we meet the various denizens of the frigid burg.
Pete (Evans) and Ginnette (Nordby) attempt to redefine what closeness means to a relationship. Glory (Flores) is camped out on the property of East (Wilson) with the hopes of witnessing the northern lights and perhaps mending her broken heart, which she carries in a paper sack. Jimmy (Browning) is hanging out at the local tavern when he runs into an old flame (Nordby). Steve (Evans), who can feel no pain, is minding his own business when Marvalyn (Flores) whacks him in the head with an ironing board. Gayle (Larsen-Shine) has come to with a dozen mail sacks containing all the love Lendall (Browning) has given her. She’s returning it and wants all the love she’s given him returned as well. It’s not an equal trade. Randy (Browning) and Chad (Wilson) are surprised to find themselves literally falling for each other. Phil (Browning) and Marci (Flores) are skating on thin ice. Hope (Nordby) arrives at the house of an old beau seeking to rekindle the relationship but finds a stranger (Evans) living there now. Dave (Wilson) has gifted Rhonda (Larsen-Shine) with a piece of artwork with a hidden meaning. Will she see it?
Cariani doesn’t avoid the painful part of love but doesn’t lean heavily into it. The play’s best gag comes at the conclusion of the darkest vignette.
Templeton’s cast have good chemistry and are given ample opportunities to display their versatility. Wilson in particular demonstrates why he is one of the area’s best comedic character actors.
Andrew Patton’s set design (a snow bank, a bench, two door frames) is beautiful in its simplicity. Chris Schloemp’s projections bring the Northern Lights to the North Bay. Costume Designer Donnie Frank may have cleared local thrift store racks of every stitch of Eddie Bauer/North Face/REI clothing to appropriately drape the cast.
Originally produced in 2004, Almost, Maine had a very short Off-Broadway run before winding up as one of the most-produced plays in North American high schools. Some elements seem dated (there’s an awful lot of nonconsensual kissing going on), but overall it’s quaint, quirky, and generally harmless.
Almost, Maine is the theatrical equivalent of comfort food. Nothing fancy, but you’ll feel better after a good helping.
‘Almost, Maine’ runs through April 10 at Spreckels Performing Arts Center, 5409 Snyder Lane, Rohnert Park. Thursday – Saturday, 7:30pm; Sunday, 2pm; $12 – $26. 707.588.3400. Proof of vaccination is not required to attend. Masking is optional. spreckelsonline.com
Photos by Jeff Thomas