by David A. Rosenberg
At Music Theater of Connecticut these days, four actors play a slew of characters in John Cariani’s “Almost, Maine,” crashing headlong through life and loss without much thought at all in a series of comic playlets. The locale is “a small town in northern Maine that doesn’t quite exist.” On a particular Friday night, men and women come and go, talking not of Michelangelo but of broken hearts (literally), love returned (again, literally, in sacks) and hope deferred. Yes, that latter person’s name is Hope.
Everything is rather literal in the town of Almost, where connections are missed by characters always ready to remember or rekindle romances. These lost, lonely souls “almost” make it but not quite.
The playwright’s eccentric style barely skirts coy, often spilling over into that honeyed territory. It takes a firm hand to avoid the kooky sentimentality. After all, what do you do with lines like “You gotta hold onto people or you lose them” or comparing the northern lights to “torches that the recently departed carry with them on their way to heaven”?
One character, Glory, tells her story to a man named East who was fortuitously born on the sixth of January, Three Kings Day. Another lonely fella can’t feel pain, even after getting hit by an ironing board. His list of things to be afraid of includes pretty girls. Actually, of course, it’s love he fears until . . . (fill in the blanks).
Then there are the two rugged guys who literally, humorously fall for each other, plopping over as if shot. One is named Randy, the other Chad, leading to Randy’s telling Chad that something is “bad and sad.”
Admittedly, there’s a certain odd innocence in much of this, but it’s played with a sledgehammer intensity that makes the whimsical vignettes and characters into foolish caricatures. Directed by Kevin Connors and featuring Cynthia Hannah, Katie Sparer, Tim Reilly and Jim Schilling, instead of a gentle cartoon, we get an occasionally charming yet strident, cutesy, overlong evening.