ALMOST, MAINEby John Cariani
Granbury Theatre Company
Director: Katy Beckermann
Assistant Director: Tonya Laree
Scenic Designer: Kerri Pavelick
Costume Designer: Emily Warwick
Lighting Designer: Kalani Morrissette
Assistant Lighting Designer: David Broberg
Sound Designer: Kyle Hoffman
Propmaster: Gaylene Carpenter
Matt Beutner - Lendell, Chad, Daniel
Sam Bullington - Pete, Jimmy, Steve, Bill
JD Choate - East, Randy, Dave
Cayley Davis - Glory, Waitress, Marci, Suzette
Ashley Green - Sandrine, Gayle, Shelley, Rhonda
Stephanie Simmons - Ginette, Marvalyn, Deena, Hope
Reviewed Performance: 1/27/2018
Reviewed by Elaine Plybon, Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN
The action takes place in various locations in a small berg called Almost. Its inhabitants seek to find love and meaning in their lives during one crisply cold evening in the middle of winter. Through brief vignettes, the audience gets a glimpse into the lives of 22 young men and women who are portrayed by six actors. Throughout the dialogue, what is billed as a comedy turns out to be a thought-provoking inspection of loneliness, insecurity, and, of course, love.
The set, designed by Kerri Pavelick, includes the front of two cabins which have a connecting wooden porch. A myriad of trees, flocked with snow, round out the scenery and convincingly reminds us that the setting is the farthest north of the contiguous United States. Not all of the vignettes take place outside of cabins, however, and at appropriate times, other set pieces are conveniently lowered from above or brought in from the side to create a bar, a laundry room, a living room, and a park bench. All of the scenic pieces are well-done and realistic, providing a complementary backdrop to the action.
Lighting was expertly designed by Kalani Morrissette. Cold blues brought the winter indoors during outdoor scenes and warmer hues were chosen for indoor scenes. My favorite lighting effect was during the scene entitled "Her Heart". The northern lights ebbed and alternated colors convincingly. It was so visually interesting that it almost distracted me from the actors performances - but not quite!
Costumes, designed by Emily Warwick, were exactly what was needed and suited each character's style well. From long johns to heavy coats, the actors were perfectly dressed for every occasion.
There are eight scenes, a prologue, interlogue, and epilogue. Each scene, with the exception of one, featured two of the actors. These scenes were an opportunity for the young actors to showcase their talents or to have their imperfections spotlighted and this cast did a superb job of taking on the challenge to ensure the former.
Stephanie Simmons shined the most brightly as Ginette in the Prologue, Interlogue, and Epilogue, as well as in her portrayal of Hope in the scene entitled "Story of Hope". Simmons had a way of using her facial expressions delicately - every eye movement and tilt of her head carried loads of meaning. This talent was shared and complemented by her counterpart in the -logues, Sam Bullington.
Bullington shone through every scene in which he was a part. Whether he was portraying quiet and socially awkward Pete, man who feels no pain, Steve, or a heating and cooling guy with a sad tattoo, Jimmy, Bullington brought forth a distinctly different delivery each time he appeared on stage. He was convincing in every role and his impeccable timing was evident throughout. My favorite example of this timing was in the scene entitled "Sad and Glad", when Ashley Green was his counterpart, Sandrine. Green and Bullington volleyed lines back and forth expertly and in a way that provided some of the most light-hearted fun of the evening.
Green delivered very strong portrayals of several characters. My favorites were as mentioned in the previous paragraph and as Rhonda in the scene entitled "Seeing the Thing." This scene had the entire audience guffawing as she and JD Choate in the role of Dave, shared a passionate moment or two in wintry Maine. I won't spoil the action, but I will say it was definitely entertaining.
JD Choate also convincingly portrayed East, who was a repairman falling in love with a woman who had something broken in "Her Heart". His portrayal was boyish and endearing as he considered the woman who was camping in his yard, portrayed by Cayley Davis.
Davis was well-cast as Glory. With every facial expression and pensive body language, she silently conveyed the subtle underlying truths the character was hiding. In her supporting role of Waitress in the "Sad and Glad", I found myself wanting to learn more about the character, which is a tribute to her ability to take a small role and make it her own.
Matt Beutner provided supporting roles as Lendall in "Getting it Back" and Man in "Story of Hope". In these roles, Beutner deferred to his female counterparts to lead the dialogue while his characters, as written, demanded a more silent and "small" presence. Beutner portrayed the roles with an almost amused yet subdued facial expression and body language.
Overall, Almost, Maine is a nice and entertaining venture into the many facets of love. As the actors literally fell in love, carried bags of love, cradled a broken heart, and examined love's realities and illusions, the play, written by John Cariani, provided a meaty, yet fun dialogue that gave me an opportunity to think a little while at the same time relax, smile, and laugh.
Almost, Maine, will just be running through February 11, so be sure to pick up your tickets and spend some time pondering love.
Granbury Theatre Company
133 East Pearl Street
Plays through February 11th
Friday and Saturday nights at 7:30 p.m., Saturday and Sunday matinees at 2:00 p.m.
Tickets are $20-30
For information and to purchase tickets, visit www.granburytheatrecompany.org or call the box office at 817-579-0952.