ALMOST MAINE & SHAME TV theatre review

photo: Laurence Greene

by Dick Kerekes & Leisla Sansom
We had an early Valentine treat on February 12 at the Wilson Center for the Arts Studio Theater, on the South Campus of FSCJ, enjoying two one-act plays titled Almost Maine and Shame TV. This was a limited two-night run done at Reader’s Theatre.
The first offering of the evening, Shame TV, was performed by the Speech Forensics Team of the South Campus, under the direction of Professor Chad Kuyper. His students learn speech, debate and oral interpretation and the performance provided a showcase for their many talents.
Shame TV explored the world of Reality TV which seems to be more and more evident in television programming today. Talk about timing, my copy of this week’s Time Magazine came in the day I planned to see the show, and one of the feature stories was “Reality TV: Why It’s Better than You Think.” I took the quiz “What’s Your Reality TV IQ?” and got only 2 out of 47 questions correct. I probably know more about brain surgery than this type of television show. Boy did I need to see this show!
Every word we heard was actually spoken or written by a real person (with one exception taken from a film). The script touched on incidents from several shows, including American Idol and The Bachelor. One of the actors summarized their attraction with “These shows are popular because people like to see other people humiliated”. Transitions were rapid and in mid-speech, as though in response to a remote control button. It was a lot of fun, lively, and thought-provoking as performed by Grace Carter, Amanda Crews, Diana Dingchong, Joe Mathis, Andrea Pressley and Ryan Simmers.
After a brief intermission, Dramaworks, the performance component of the drama department of FSCJ, took over the stage with John Cariani’s whimsical play Almost Maine. The setting is a place called Almost, a town that almost became an incorporated town, but never made it and thus is not on anyone’s map, and just out in the middle of nowhere in the middle of the State of Maine. The original play that debuted in 2004 has been very popular all over the country. FSCJ’s Guest Director, Tina Fallon staged eight of the original twelve scenes, all taking place outdoors on a cold winter Maine night. And all paying homage to romantic encounters, often unpredictable and often very funny.
I liked them all but had four favorites.
This Hurts portrayed by Lauren Eitzenberg and Jerald E. Wheat II, was the most physical vignette, with a man who can feel no pain being whacked in the head by an ironing board, and discovering both love and pain.
With In Her Heart Julia Fallon is a young woman whose heart was broken by a former husband, now deceased. She meets Steven Carter, a repairman, who takes the broken heart she has been carrying around in a cloth sack and pledges to mend it.”
They Fell featured two young guys, Ryan Arroyo and Stephen Brazile, sitting around drinking beer, and talking about chicks, who suddenly realize they have an attraction for each other so intense they fall to the floor.
Story of Hope has Chelsae Newberry as a desperate young lady returning home several years after leaving without answering a proposal for marriage by Bryan Way. Initially she does not even recognize him, then learns he is now married, and it is too late to say yes.
The funniest scene of the evening, judging from audience response was Seeing the Thing, which featured Chloë Campbell, a tomboy who discovers she is a woman with physical desires as her friend Thad Walker teaches her to appreciate his new painting.
Sad and Glad had three characters, Anthony Phalecia Rumsey and Kelsey Clifford in a short story about the uncertainity of love choices.
The production had a prologue, an interlogue and an epilogue with Norman McKenzie and Heather Mullins. Untitled, it could have been called “I’d Walk around the World for you.”
The play was done on an open stage, with set pieces consisting mainly of props carried on by the actors. The back wall had the Northern Lights across the top back, thanks to Lighting Designer Heather Miller. Small pine trees were silhouetted across the bottom of the wall.
Although this was Reader’s Theatre, and the cast carried scripts, it was obvious that 95% of the lines were memorized and it could have been done totally without scripts quite easily.
This was an unusual theatre experience for us, in that it’s the first time I’ve been to a play where the audience was dressed in the same type of winter clothing as the cast (although I did not see any snow boots in the audience).
Director Tina Fallon’s excellent direction made this a fast paced production. I recognized many of the cast members from previous Dramaworks shows at this campus, and saw several new performers joining this well-rehearsed and delightful evening of an oddball look at the many facets of love.