Theater Review: Almost Maine | WMUK

Theater Review: Almost Maine

May 4, 2021

A scene from the Kalamazoo Civic Theatre's production of Almost Maine
Credit Phillip A. Miller / Kalamazoo Civic Theatre

The Kalamazoo Civic Theatre is livestreaming the play “Almost Maine” through May 6th. WMU-’s Gordon Bolar has this review.

There’s something truly magical overhead in John Cariani’s romantic comedy, set on a cold evening in and around “Almost Maine."

Is it the Northern Lights, a shooting star, or a shoe falling to earth out of the night sky that causes the couples who populate this small mythical village to behave the way they do? Or is it simply the eccentricities associated with the human need for love and companionship that generate the comic coincidences, mistakes, capricious choices and bold declarations of affection pervading this charming collection of ten loosely related scenes?

Whatever the reason, Tony Humrichhouser’s direction and fluid staging on David Kyhn’s aqua-marbled ice block set yield an enjoyable and funny production of “Almost Maine” for online audiences.

Early in the show, Ron Dundon, as a gruff bachelor nicknamed East, challenges a female trespasser, Glory, played by Kristin Tyrrell. She’s on a mission to pay respects to her unfaithful and recently deceased husband. Glory’s statement that her late spouse will somehow signal her via the Northern Lights that evening, is accompanied by the odd assertion that her broken heart is in the paper bag she carries at her side. Equally odd is East’s habit of absent-mindedly picking up the bag and walking away with it. He follows this with a profession of love for Glory that surprises both parties.

The quirky nature of the play’s characters and their mercurial reversals are central to Cariani’s style in this show. Fortunately, here and elsewhere in the script, both Dundon and Tyrrell rise to the challenge of making their characters’ seemingly illogical actions, logical and believable.

Cariani’s play and this Civic cast succeed by literalizing the time-honored metaphors that serve as our universal shorthand for the inexplicable twists and turns associated with love. Included here is the ‘broken heart” referenced in Glory’s bag.

The concept of “losing hope” is demonstrated by the answer to a decades-old standing marriage proposal. The woman belatedly responding is named, not coincidentally, Hope. She’s played with appropriate regret by Mary Teutsch. Theodore Wampuszyc portrays her now remarried former suitor with fitting sympathetic disinterest as he wishes her well and sends Hope on her way.

Metaphors for love abound for another unhappy couple, who remove their skates by a frozen pond. Johnny DeSantiago, as Phil, questions his wife, played by Ashley McPheters, about her angry mood. Forgotten anniversaries and missed opportunities for wishes on shooting stars plague this star-crossed pair as they realize their marriage in the frozen north has gone south. They seem to be waiting for the “other shoe to drop” in their relationship. It does. With a thud.

“Falling in love” is the metaphor for another twosome, who meet while doing Friday night laundry. Kristin Tyrrell and Theodore Wampuszyc render a seemingly unmatched pair, whose attraction for one another is at least as strong as the gravity that plops them back down on their keisters when they attempt to separate.

This and other endearing vignettes in the show are effective because the actors listen to their partners and respond in a conversational manner. More important, the sometimes-unlikely love relationships that emerge, grow, or die are credible because they evolve out of the everyday circumstances that put people in close proximity in this rural community. And those circumstances are carefully created in each scene by Director Humrichouser and his cast.

Take the weekly snowmobile ride shared by longtime friends Dave, played by Ron Dundon, and Rhonda, played by Kristen Tyrrell. Dave overcomes her reticence to take their friendship further than the usual post-ride beer by quoting numerous town folk who say they ought to “go out”. Point made with Rhonda. Her inhibitions slowly fade as the pair begin to remove their snowmobile coveralls. Soon they’re planning to call in late to work, as she invites him into her house for the first time.

The play’s setting, the frozen environs around “Almost Maine,” will likely not keep those who see it online from experiencing a heart-warming and entertaining evening.