quirky and whimsical “Almost, Maine”

PLAYERS BY THE SEA THEATRE REVIEW

DICK KEREKES & LEISLA SANSOM [email protected]

Jacksonville Beaches’ Players by the Sea opened a three-week run of John Cariani’s quirky and whimsical play “Almost, Maine” in its Studio Theatre on March 11, 2016.

Almost Maine” was a play that almost wasn’t at all successful. It opened Off-Broadway in 2006, and had a brief run. A very brief run; it closed a month later after poor ticket sales. But after this unpromising beginning, other theatres discovered that the script, filled with both funny and tender romantic moments, has many desirable features. Set requirements are minimal, and casting is expansible; roles can be filled with a range of actors from four to nineteen. By 2010 it was the most produced play in American high schools and popular with community and professional theatres as well. And as of this writing, it has had close to 3,000 productions.

Heart1Players did four performances as part of a special event at their theatre in March, 2015, and it was so well-received it is back for a full run, directed by Bradley Akers.

The play takes place in the small northern town of Almost, Maine, which is so far north that visitors can view the Northern Lights. The locals never got around to incorporating the town, and it’s not even on the map, which accounts for its name.

The play has a prologue and epilogue, and includes eight short scenes; most scenes have only two actors. The play is episodic, with dialogues that showcase romantic dilemmas and experiences, although the playwright’s approach is often more absurdist (and more humorous) than conventional.

The prologue and epilogue featured two talented up-and-coming actors, with Grant Williams as Pete and Kaiti Barta as Ginette.

TheyFell1As with a play of this sort, audience members had their favorite scenes, which we could measure by their audible laughter and comments. A couple of favorites included “It Hurts” with Drew Brown as a young man who grew up unable to feel physical pain, who is suddenly wacked by an ironing board belonging to a young woman played by Megan Georgeo, with surprising results. In “Seeing the Thing,” Kat McLeod played a very tomboyish female who discovers she is a woman with physical desires as Ricky Watson, portraying her friend, teaches her to appreciate his new painting.

Director Akers has cast four very versatile actors to play multiple featured roles, which was quite a challenge, as the actors had to both portray a different character in each scene, and also make quick costume changes. The blackouts between scenes were brief, and the attire was heavy and layered, reflecting the Maine winter of the setting.

The play was performed on an open stage, with snow present around the perimeter, and various set pieces (benches, chairs, props) being brought on and off by the actors. The rear wall was covered by a map that depicted the landmarks in Almost mentioned by the characters.

The acting was very good, and everyone performed admirably in changing into the various characters. We do have one suggestion. In the first act, some of the actors tended to rush their lines a bit making understanding difficult at times. Slow down, the entire show with intermission is a bit less than two hours, so there is plenty of time.

The production team included: Director, Bradley Akers; Stage Manager, Ramona Ramdeen; Assistant Stage Manager, Brandon Hines; Production Manager, Jereme Raickett; Lighting Designer, Jim Wiggins; Costume Designer, Lindsay Curry; Scenic Change Artist, Katie Dawson; Original Music, Julia Fleisher.

moolight prescenceEnjoy a unique and lively evening of theatre in another climate and place with “Almost Maine.” Also, as a bonus, you’ll find the Grune Family Gallery, an extension of the front lobby, filled with stunning paintings by local artist Anthony Whiting; most have larger-than-life birds as subjects. Call 249-0289 or visit playersbythesea.org for additional information and reservations.

About Dick Kerekes & Leisla Sansom

The Dual Critics of EU Jacksonville have been reviewing plays together for the past nine years. Dick Kerekes has been a critic since 1980, starting with The First Coast Entertainer and continuing as the paper morphed into EU Jacksonville. Leisla Sansom wrote reviews from time to time in the early 80s, but was otherwise occupied in the business world. As a writing team, they have attended almost thirty Humana Festivals of New America Plays at Actors Theatre in Louisville, Kentucky, and many of the annual conferences sponsored by the American Theatre Critics Association, which are held in cities throughout the country. They have reviewed plays in Cincinnati, Chicago, Miami, Sarasota, Minneapolis, Orlando, New York, Philadelphia, Sarasota, San Francisco, Shepherdstown, and The Eugene O’Neill Center in Waterford, Massachusetts. They currently review about one hundred plays annually in the North Florida area theaters, which include community, college, university, and professional productions.

october, 2021

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