Unexpected kisses. Unexpected visits. Unexpected revelations resulting in variations on a theme called “love” by playwright John Cariani in this first New York revival of his worldwide phenomenon of a play ALMOST, MAINE sensitively and strongly directed by Jack Cummings III with a large dose of off-beat humor – both verbal and physical for the Transport Theatre Company at 243 Thompson Street – GYM at JUDSON.
Love IS lovelier the second time around in this stunning yet simple production with a cast of four versatile and memorable actors – John Cariani, Donna Lynne Champlin, Kevin Isola and Kelly McAndrew.
The GYM has once again been transformed to fit the play with stadium seating along one side of the elongated playing area where it has been snowing (even indoors) as John Cariani (Pete) and Kelly McAndrew (Ginette) sit side by side on a bench looking silently skyward at the Northern Lights (and each other) as we enter the serene space designed by Sandra Goldmark that is beautifully lit by R. Lee Kennedy.
The original music by Tom Kochan is spellbinding and sets the mood magnificently.
Eight spotlighted areas will one by one come to life as the eight episodes unfold with different combinations of characters in this heartfelt and hopeful “tales of the heart” encompassing all the pain and joy and loneliness and fears and hurts and miscommunication that come with falling in and out of love in this heightened reality of life up in Maine where going South means going to Vermont.
It’s almost an “otherworldly experience” as strange situations are dealt with in a regular, average person’s speaking their hearts out style. Unexpected events happen that take us by surprise (including the characters) in this fresh and original work that is extremely funny and moving.
Hearts are literally broken. Sacks filled with “love” that have been given are given back – strewn across the snowy stage. Two guys literally fall in love (and two women at some performances). A couple try to find the fun that they once shared while arguing on ice skates before waiting for the inevitable shoe to drop. And there is an incredible, hysterical removable of layers and layers of winter snow mobile outfits as two friends finally find that they want to make it into the bedroom.
Donna Lynne Champlin glows in every aspect of her portrayals. Sensitive and comic. Brash and heartbreaking. John Cariani has an original voice as a playwright and as an actor. A young David Steinberg. Your average everyman loser who sometimes can win. Kevin Isola has an honesty and strength that is conveyed without even having to move – much can be said in silence. And the radiant Kelly McAndrew brings a warmth and edge to her characters. All four can convey the hurt that lies just beneath the surface and bring joy to that ultimate feeling of love requited.
The wonder of love befuddles and bewilders but there is hope that all will turn out OK up in ALMOST, MAINE. Terrific production. EXTENDED through March 2nd. One 15 minute intermission.
Photos: Carol Rosegg
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