Review: ‘Almost, Maine’ at Providence Players of Fairfax

Almost, Maine is a series of short scenes reflecting love stories of characters in the same small town which never quite got organized enough to become official, so remains “almost.” The actors are an ensemble, moving the set pieces around between scenes, and doing so in character. Admiring the beauty of the night sky together or walking offstage and throwing an arm over the shoulder of their friend highlights the connection between this small town and, to this reviewer, the relationships built in community theater.

Written by John Cariani, Almost, Maine, is a very popular new play. It is among the most produced non-musicals in the country. In 2010, it was the first play to have more North American high school productions than Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. To put that in perspective, it was the first time since people have kept such records that Shakespeare was surpassed. It makes for great community theater too.

L to R: Jack Read (Jimmy), Julie Janson (the waitress), and Elizabeth Floyd (Sandrine). Photo by Chip Gertzog.
L to R: Jack Read (Jimmy), Julie Janson (the waitress), and Elizabeth Floyd (Sandrine). Photo by Chip Gertzog.

The Providence Players of Fairfax’s production of Almost, Maine introduces those unfamiliar with the show to the joys and wonderment within it, and offers creative artistic choices that highlight the joys and beauty of the play. Much of the credit for that goes to Director Chip Gertzog, who also leads the lighting and projection design team. Having seen the play twice before, I have not previously received the same sense of a small town’s community, which Gertzog reveals during scene changes.

The set design is beautifully coordinated with the lighting and projections. The stage pictures built with the prop trees blending into the snow-laden line of trees in the projections, all under a majestic starry sky are really gorgeous. When the night sky is inundated with a shifting rainbow from the northern lights, it is a stunning look, serving the play well. The cold, stark setting overwhelmed by the beauty of the heavens reflects the loneliness of the characters who are searching for and exploring many aspects of love in the multiple scenes.

With nine separate stories, there are moments that highlight specific actors. Standouts among the excellent ensemble include Christopher Crockett as Steve and Jenny Madorsky as Marvalyn. Different forms of pain, especially when connected to love, become apparent from Madorsky’s subtle acting choices, and Crockett’s comic talents bring to mind the social cluelessness of Sheldon from The Big Bang Theory.

Elizabeth Keith brings a poignant honesty to Hope, as she returns to her hometown to try to right a wrong she committed years before. Meanwhile, Jack Read (Dave) tries to help Julie Janson (Rhonda), see the thing that he has for her. The wonderfully-acted scene evoked the vulnerability needed to take the leap of faith and risk for a life-altering relationship.

The Providence Players of Fairfax has produced a lovely version of Almost, Maine, with enough original artistic choices to make it fresh and lovely.

Running Time: Approximately Two hours, with one 15-minute intermission.

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Almost, Maine plays through April 16, 2016 at  Providence Players of Fairfax, performing at the James Lee Community Center – 2855 Annandale Road, in Falls Church, VA. For tickets, purchase them at the door, or online.

‘Almost, Maine’ Opens Tomorrow Night at Providence Players of Fairfax by Chip Gertzog.

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