Entering any theater for a production is always exciting. One never knows what will happen on a stage during a performance. If it’s a good production, the audience is transported to the realm of the shared imaginations of playwright, director, and creative crews. Anything can happen, but one thing is for certain; it is going to be an absolutely new experience. Happily for this reviewer, the first encounter with Community Theatre at Woodbury was not only new and exciting but an unforgettable. This organization is a theatrical force that has materialized in a stunning presentation of Almost, Maine.
Today, Almost, Maine is one of the most popular plays in America. The current production of John Cariani’s work by Community Theatre proves that it will remain popular for many years to come. There’s so much to like about it. It’s well written with strong structure and with well defined and quirky characters. The play moves quickly through its eight scenes, not including the clever Prologue, Interlogue, and Epilogue. Everything in the play is connected by its mythical locale and strange events that deal with the Northern Lights, shooting stars, and falling in and out of love. As endearing as it is entertaining, this play wasn’t always hailed by critics. It was “almost” a forgettable flop that opened and closed in one month Off-Broadway. Nonetheless, it lived, thrived and continues to be one of the most produced romantic comedies nationwide.
Artistic Director Maureen Denver directs this beautifully presented show by bringing together an exceptionally fine cast and cleverly creative production staff. She also has a knack for timing and pacing, so the multiple scenes flow seamlessly into a unified whole.
All of the actors are strong and deliver believable characters. Tatyanna Malagutti and John Brickel open and close the show with a simplicity that underscores their art. Teresa Moran, the dramaturg at Shakesperience, finds that a repair man, played by Dennis Walsh, might be just the person to fix her broken heart. Jim Sillery, Clarise Ballesteros and Christine Parker move from “Sad to Glad” convincingly. Who knew that a tattoo could be so serendipitous? Cathy Annulli and Kathleen Roche as Shelly and Deena literally fall for each other to the delight of the audience.
Keli Solomon as Gayle wants to take back her love from Lendall played by John Brickel and Jim Sillery as Steve gets whacked in the head with an ironing board by Marvalyn, played by Ashley Blackwell in the scene titled “This Hurts.” It certainly sounded like it hurt.
Lisa Goldberg is a dynamo as Marci and Dennis Walsh as her husband Phil waits for the other shoe to fall in their rocky relationship. Christine Parker as Hope can’t find her place in the world and Jack Kearney as Man is not about to help her find it, especially since Cathy Annulli as Suzette is around. Erika Dorio as Rhonda learns a thing or two about art from Dave, played superbly by Rob Koelmel. Overall, the cast does a terrific job not only bringing their characters to life, but making them memorable.
Linda Boston and Bill Geddes have designed a fine set with a thrust platform that extends beyond the stage to one side. The backdrop is a snowy scene with tall evergreens and the extended platform also features an evergreen and nicely completes the picture. Linda Boston and Alicia Napolitano painted the effective and functional set and Bill Geddes is credited with sound, lights, and special effects. All are finely executed.
Overall, this theater knows what it takes to launch a successful production and it has done so with an artistic force that will take it through many future shows and seasons. Even if you have seen Almost, Maine before, see it again, here. This production has a touch of magic that makes it unforgettable. Kudos to all involved with this show. This play runs through Jan. 22. Box office: 203-263-3113
Joanne Greco Rochman is an active member in The American Theatre Critics Association. She welcomes comments. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org