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Almost, Maine

a Romantic Comedy
CATEGORY :
by John Cariani

COMPANY : Horizon Theatre Company [WEBSITE]
VENUE : Horizon Theatre Company [WEBSITE]
ID# 2234

SHOWING : February 23, 2007 - March 25, 2007

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PRODUCTION DESCRIPTION

It's winter in Almost, Maine. The Aurora Borealis fills the sky, and Magic fills the airas nineteen characters (played by 4 actors) fall into and out of love.


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REVIEWS

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The Last Whimsey
by Dedalus
Thursday, March 29, 2007
4.0
It’s Almost time to get this written – the show has closed, my lunch hour has started, etc etc etc. Where to begin?

Ah, Merriam-Webster’s on-line dictionary –

WHIMSEY: Variant of whimsy.

Not much help there.

WHIMSY: The quality or state of being whimsical.

Now we’re getting somewhere.

WHIMSICAL: Full of, actuated by, or exhibiting whims.

Call me slow, but I’m detecting a pattern here.

WHIM: A capricious or eccentric and often sudden idea or turn of the mind, for example any of the vignettes in John Cariani’s “Almost, Maine.”

Ever since the demise of TV’s “Northern Exposure,” Whimsey as an artistic choice has fallen on hard times. It’s so much cooler to be cynical, cruel, and acerbic, that the gentleness of a sincere and affectionate whim is crushed in the on-slaught of 24/7 Type-A Life-Style Mindsets.

Which is a shame, because there can be something invigorating and soothing and even surprising about first-class Whimsey (I choose the variant spelling simply on a whim).

Consider the following:

A young man and woman, shy and tongue-tied, sit silently on a bench in the dead of a Maine Winter night. It’s Northern Lights season, and there is Magical Whimsey in the air. As they move closer together, the more philosphical of the two ponders the paradox of closeness – because we live on a sphere, the closer we get to one another, the farther apart we also are. The farthest apart we can be is when we’re clinging to each other – after all, the entire circumference of the earth is now between us. Not wanting to be far, the woman walks away, so she can be closer. The play’s running gag is a return to the philosphical young man, sitting alone with his snowball, waiting for her return.

A woman has had her heart broken. She carries it in a bag with her. The heart has turned to slate and shatters more each day. She and her late husband parted on harsh terms, and she has come to Maine to ask his forgiveness. It’s a well-known fact that, after three days, a dead person is carried to the afterlife on the wings of the Northern Lights. It’s been three days since his death, and she wants to see him off. She has camped in the backyard of a repairman from nearby Easton Maine, who is also named Easton – his parents got his Name-of-Birth and Place-of-Birth mixed up on the Birth Certificate. Did you know that repairmen can fix broken hearts that have turned into slate?

A couple have called it quits. She comes into his living room carrying a mountain of red laundry bags. She says she is returning all the love he gave her, and wants hers back. He gives her a single baggie-sized sack. Containing a ring.

Talking about “Almost, Maine” necessitates talking about the whimsical little stories, all taking place in the same night, all about residents of an “Almost” town called Almost (no one ever got the get-up-and-go to make it an actual town -- Government here is deciding to go for a brew at the local watering hole). Some of the scenes are happy, some are sad, some are surprising, all have a heaping helping of Maine Whimsey, that magical quality that makes fortune cookies profound, love-at-first-sight healing, misspelled tattoos prophetic, best friends declare love, and missing boots fall from the sky. Everyone is lost in Romance, either falling in love, being in love, finding love, losing love, or rediscovering love. The nineteen characters are played by 4 actors (Shelby Hofer, Lala Cochran, Chad Martin, and Jason MacDonald), who, like the Main Stream reviewers said, often look alike. In my whimsical fashion, I think that makes them seem more “everyman”-like, so it worked for me. The set is simple – a bare stage with a bit of pseudo-snow and a shifting and twinkling starscape, which, on cue, flashes the colors of the Aurora Borealis. A crate plays the role of bench, chair, table, and, crate (it’s especially effective in this role).

And it all works gloriously!

I’m afraid we have lost the abilty to appreciate True Whimsey. The AJC griped that this was “almost a play,” with whimsey substituting for depth. To my mind, though, it revealed something deep about these people, something vulnerable and human and appealing. Yes, the vignettes are short, we only see a snapshot of each character. But don’t even snapshots reveal hidden depths of their subjects? The kids mugging for the camera, the old married couple lost in comfortable silence, the teenagers looking at each other instead of the camera – the depths are there to find. Because Whimsey has the durability and strength of a puff of dry snow, does not make it any less profound.

To my mind, True Whimsey can be as theatrically meaningful and profound as the most esoteric masterpiece from the Great Playwrights of Western Civilization. It is a Poetry of the Imagination. It is the heart and soul of what it means to be human. It is becoming a lost art. And, in this techno-spectacle age, this play may very well be the Last Whimsey. I will mourn.

-- Brad Rudy (BKRudy@aol.com)

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