The history of actor/writer John Cariani’s 2004 play, Almost, Maine, is interesting, to say the least. Despite a locally successful premiere with the Portland Stage Company, the romantic comedy wasn’t a big hit in New York, where it played at the Daryl Roth Theatre off-Broadway.
Cariani’s script started to get some positive attention in the amateur arena after being produced at several high schools, colleges, community theatres and regional theatres and was, according to the Educational Theatre Association, the most-produced play in American high schools in 2017-2018.
Broadway Vista Theatre’s production mixes quirkiness, humor and heart in Almost, Maine , in large part owing to the efforts of Founder and Producing Artistic Director Emeritus of Moonlight Stage Productions, Kathy Brombacher. She is an ideal fit for Cariani’s vignettes.
Nine stories focus on relationships, and all deal with different scenarios of love in the town of Almost, Maine. The tales are full of offbeat dialogue, performed by a cast of four, and include several highlights.
In “Her Heart,” an infatuated repairman, East (Kenny Bordieri), falls for a hiker, Glory (Kelly Derouin), who wants to see the Northern Lights. “This Hurts,” features a woman Marvalyn (Renetta Lloyd, who also does double duty as the costume designer), in an unhappy relationship, who starts to care about Steve (Bordieri), an antisocial but nice individual who can’t feel physical pain and there’s a story, “Getting it Back” where a frustrated girlfriend, Gayle (Derouin), literally wants her boyfriend, Lendall (Devin Collins) to return all the love she gave him. Other subjects of the stories include a bachelorette party and two close friends who might be falling in love. Cariani ends most of the stories with an optimistic message.
An early part of the show that features a couple, Pete (Collins) and Ginette (Lloyd), having an uncomfortable conversation is the only part that’s played for too many awkward laughs. This plot, admittedly, does pay off in some surprising ways as the story moves on.
Cariani’s storytelling really starts to hit its stride with “Her Heart” and from that point forward, audiences will begin to realize why the show continues to be frequently produced.
While Cariani celebrates different kinds of love stories, the evening does contain a few stories such as “Where It Went” and “Story of Hope” that are sadder and rather more dramatic than the rest of the lighthearted tales depicted by the playwright.
Brombacher’s direction feels natural, even in moments that are more out of the ordinary. She doesn’t overplay the exaggerated elements of the stories, which allows the material to connect with theatregoers.
Her set, which is co-designed by Randall Hickman (Broadway Theatre’s Co-Owner) and Douglas Davis (Co-Owner), depicts a cold winter, and the audio from Brombacher and Tommy Eyler uses music that’s soothing and romantic.
The cast plays their different roles with an offbeat humor that doesn’t sacrifice the humanity of the people they portray. Derouin does the most to distinguish her different roles with her versatile acting, but Collins, Lloyd and Bordieri each have a self-assured handling of Cariani’s writing style.
Almost, Maine continues to be a comedy in great demand, and the Broadway Theatre’s rendition does it justice. With Brombacher as director, this is a charmingly intimate interpretation.