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Almost, Maine' fails to warm a cold script

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Those of us who consider heartwarming to be code for "sappy" should beware of a confection titled "Almost, Maine," presented by Carpenter Square Theatre. But if heartwarming is your cup of caramel macchiato, this may be the show for you.

"Almost, Maine" consists of nine vignettes that take place at 9 on a cold winter night around Almost, a mythical township in northern Maine. This conceit is as fluffy and insubstantial as a double handful of dry snow. The cold seems to affect Mainers in weird ways. It makes people blurt out "I love you" at odd times or suddenly kiss total strangers.

Or maybe something else causes this untoward behavior. Take Glory (Kris Schinske), who comes to Maine to view the aurora borealis, which, she says, are the torches of recently departed souls on their way to heaven. Then she starts talking really strangely.

LAUNDRY-ROOM ENCOUNTER
And you have two characters played by Rebecca Damron and Alan Tran, who keep whacking each other in the head with an ironing board in a peculiar laundry-room encounter. Or take another character played by Schinske, who returns all her lover's love in six bright-red duffel bags and demands her love back from him "? and gets it, much to her surprise. Or consider the two beer-drinking buddies (Addison Miller and Tran) who take "falling in love" a little too literally.

The whole of "Almost, Maine" is less than the sum of its parts, and its parts do not amount to much. The characters and setting are much less mysterious and sinister than playwright John Cariani would like us to think that they are. "Almost, Maine" is not so much a play as it is a display of nine underdeveloped ideas.

Brett Young's direction offers little insight into the script. Some scenes are performed at the extreme corners of the stage, creating poor sight lines for much of the audience. But let's give Young the benefit of the doubt; he doesn't have much to work with. This production is split into two acts, but could be staged in 90 minutes without intermission, which would be an improvement. It is amazing that after all these years, some directors still have trouble staging plays in the Stage Center's Arena Theater.

The acting is OK, for the most part. But as with the director, the actors do not have much to work with, either. Jonathan Siler plays a guy who waits seemingly forever for his love (Dana Hanley). It makes for a cute ending to the play, but it's a long wait for so little. 

"?Larry Laneer

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