ALMOST, MAINE at Magic Lantern

By Leigh Macmillen Hayes

Special to The News

SAD AND GLAD — Katie Neault and Tony Ennis rehearse “Sad and Glad,” a scene for Lake Region Community Theatre’s upcoming production of ALMOST, MAINE. The show will be presented at the Magic Lantern in Bridgton this weekend, Jan. 27-29.

According to The American Heritage Dictionary, “almost” means “slightly short of; not quite; all but; very nearly.”

And in a recent e-mail exchange with playwright John Cariani, he explains that to him “almost” means “Not quite. But someday.” Which is always, to me. And, ‘presque’ in French. As in Presque Isle. Even though Portage is the model for the “town” of Almost, Maine.”

Cariani, born and raised in Presque Isle, and now an actor known for his role as forensic expert Julian Beck on the television show, Law & Order, developed ALMOST, MAINE in 2002. It debuted two years later in Portland, where it became the longest-running hit of the Portland Stage Company.

“A captivating comedy. Full of wholly unexpected and utterly enchanting surprises. A wooly midwinter night’s dream,” — The Dallas Observer.

“Romantic, poignant, and hilariously funny. Sometimes you won’t know whether to laugh or cry! Almost perfect. 4 1/2 stars! (Out of five.),” — The Edmonton Sun (Alberta, Canada).

This delightful romantic comedy is a collection of two-character vignettes exploring the mysteries of the heart. Things aren’t what they seem when the northern lights dance in the starry sky above, and the honest and hardworking townspeople of Almost get caught in a magical flurry as they fall in and out of love.
Cariani writes, “ALMOST, MAINE is about one moment in time — what can happen to people in a heartbeat. In ALMOST, MAINE, that moment is 9 p.m. on a Friday night when the northern lights appear. They kind of give rise to all magical events that occur in the play.”

When asked what caused him to examine love from so many different angles, Cariani said, “I was in a production of Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale at the Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival about 12 years ago…and I was always struck by how much audiences bought the craziness of the love story, how people would gasp and cry when love was lost…and how they would gasp and cry — and then cheer! — when love was restored…So I figured, for my first play, that I would try writing about the most dramatic thing in the world: people coming together, falling in love, and trying to stay together, or coming apart. I also wanted to turn the romantic comedy on its ear and kind of explore love from a slightly surreal and mysterious perspective— because I think that when love happens — well, being in love is one of the strangest, surrealest, and most mysterious places to be.”

Cariani added, “I enjoy watching Mainers do the play in front of Mainers. They…understand Maine. And it’s been so fun for me to educate people about Maine! We’re not all lobstermen.” The latter is a reference to Act One, “Her Heart,” when the female character says, “I guess I thought that everyone from Maine was a lobsterman and talked in that funny… way like they do in Maine, and you don’t talk that way…Man: Nope. You’re not Down East. You’re up north. And this is how we talk up north, pretty much. Woman: Oh. Man: Plus, ocean’s a couple hundred miles away. Be an awful long ride to work if I was a lobsterman.”

Using ALMOST, MAINE to make his foray into playwriting, Cariani wanted to make sure that the play doesn’t make fun of the people or the mythical town, but does pick up on the regional quirkiness — that’s part of the charm.

His favorite character is Hope in “The Story of Hope.” “She went away from home…and is now not from there,” said Cariani. “Just like me. I grew up in Presque Isle…and now I am not from there. It’s bittersweet. I am who I am because of northern Maine. But I am not from there anymore.”
Rob A. Juergens will direct ALMOST, MAINE for Lake Region Community Theatre. The production features a cast of 13: Tim Richardson, Keli Forke, Tom Ferent, Teresa Dyer, Tony Ennis, Katie Neault, Kim Vigneau, Shannon Oliver, Tim Lorrain, Mellissa Mattucci, Brett Spalding, Nathan Sipe and Barb Stauble.

Scenery is designed by Greg Harris. Lighting and sound is by Greg Watkins and props are by Mellissa Mattucci. Lew Krainin, Janet Ver Planck and Jyselle Watkins are the producers.

ALMOST, MAINE will be performed by Lake Region Community Theatre at the Magic Lantern in Bridgton with special permission from the Dramatists Play Service, Inc.

The show is scheduled for this Friday and Saturday, Jan. 27-28 at 7 p.m. and Sunday, Jan. 29 at 2 p.m.

Tickets are $10, and are available at Hayes True Value Hardware, Bridgton, Krainin Real Estate in Raymond, Raymond Village Florist, Casco Library, Naples Library, Bridgton Library and the Magic Lantern. For more information, go to www.lrctme.org

Treat yourself and your loved ones to an early Valentine’s Day this winter, northern Maine-style. Expect to leave the show feeling warm and fuzzy.

“This snowy play will leave you much warmed, and in more ways than you may have expected,” — The Des Moines Register.

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