"Almost, Maine," Music Theatre of Connecticut

--Irene Backalenick

The Music Theatre of Connecticut manages to make the most of its small theater, turning problems into creative solutions. The entire space -- theater and seating -- has less square footage than a Manhattan studio apartment. It’s hard to imagine a Broadway musical gracing its stages, but in fact MTC recently created a haunting version of “Cabaret.” Whatever the project MTC tackles, its very intimacy often proves to be an asset.

 

Once again, with its current show, size works in its favor. The play “Almost, Maine” is a series of episodes occurring in and around a small town (at times in an unincorporated area, that is, says one character, “almost” Maine). In each skit two characters play out their relationships, giving four actors the opportunity to create an entire village.

 

Playwright John Cariani has a distinctive voice -- offbeat, sometimes fanciful, and often very funny. The skits are all about love -- love in its many variations, complete with stumbling blocks -- proving to be an appropriate choice for this St. Valentine’s season. In one skit, a woman urges her boy friend to propose, to no avail. In another, a rough, athletic girl learns that there is more to life than outdoor sports. In still another, two men learn that they prefer each other to any of the women they date. Each falls in a faint on stage, as they discover the truth. As to Cariani’s whimsy, one woman drags bags “of the love you gave me” across the stage, while a woman carries her broken heart in a plastic bag. A missing shoe drops from the sky. It is all very quirky and good fun.

 

Under the direction of Kevin Connors (MTC’s artistic director), the four actors, portraying eight distinctive couples (all of whom know each other) romp across the stage. Although their down east Maine accents sometimes slip, Cynthia Hannah, Tim Reilly, Jim Schilling, and Katie Sparer area generally in fine form, sounding just the right note. (Schilling is also MTC’s managing director and co-founder.)

 

This may be almost Maine, but it is a Maine of Cariani’s special vision. Let’s have more of that vision on our Connecticut stages.

 

This review also appears on nytheaterscene.com

 

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