BLOOMFIELD, NJ — “Almost, Maine,” a play of nine vignettes about falling in and out of love, on the same night as an aurora borealis, was performed last week by the Bloomfield High School Thespian Society under the direction of BHS drama teacher Brandon Doemling.
Written by John Cariani, the school’s fall production was seen last Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings at the Van Fossen Theatre, on the Bloomfield College campus. The action of the play takes place in the fictitious town of Almost in remote, northern Maine.
The play is about trying to find love when one’s only compass is language. Each of the nine couples in these vignettes grapple with their own descriptions of an experience as sensual and perplexing as the northern lights.
The play was all-around well acted and filled with charming performances which may make one believe that some theater works are best done only by young adults. “Almost, Maine,” may be one of these. This may be a foregone conclusion.
According to Doemling, it is currently the most performed played in American high schools. In the BHS production, 19 students performed. When the play opened off-Broadway in 2006, a cast of four adults played all roles. In only one vignette do three actors perform. Otherwise, only two perform.
What the play tells us is that, in love, words are just examples of what we feel, and like ripe fruit, bruise easily when handled. It is only when love fails that words fall into literacy and make perfect sense.
Some examples of the use of language from the play include the episode, “Her Heart,” acted by Kyle Spiteri, as the character named East, who confronts a girl named Glory, played by Soula Garcia. Glory trespasses into East’s backyard on the night of the aurora, to pay her final respects to her dead boyfriend, whose name is West. Language is used this way throughout the play to show us that a characteristic of love is its inevitability. And Soula performs Glory with just the right amount scatterbrained beguile to make the inevitability a free fall. When East unexpectedly kisses Glory on the lips, it is understood that without action there can be no happiness.
In the vignette, “This Hurts,” a boy and a girl are again discovering that they were meant for each other. As in all the performances throughout “Almost, Maine,” there is a careful development, or expression, of character. Connor Carlin does this well, breaking from a shell of written lists of what will and will not hurt him, to become a person with his own true feelings. Sophie Bell, as Marvalyn, is perfectly matched to him, step by step, revealing a supposed boyfriend’s shirt she irons was only a facade to her loneliness.
“They Fell” is about two good friends, guys, who uncomfortably discover that they are in love with each other. We know the realization is inescapable because the characters, Randy and Chad, played by Omar Bauomy and Jose Ocasio, fall to the floor when they try to deny what has occurred and go back to the way they were. The falls are funny and dramatize how words of love, whose purpose is to find life’s supreme expression of acceptance, have a reasoning of their own.
Another literal interpretation of language is when Phil and Marci, a husband and wife, acted by Maxwell Addae and Stephanie Mautone, accept that their marriage is over. We know this because a shoe, which Marci misplaced while ice skating, drops from above onto the stage, ending a discussion too painful for either person to end. And we understand that the misplaced shoe was Marci’s hidden feeling.
In “Getting it back,” there is more word play as a couple give each other back, in red bags, the love they gave over an 11-year relationship. But all ends well for Gayle and Lendall, played by Ego Achilike and Derrel Wright, because in the smallest bag is an engagement ring.