Published 12:00 am Thursday, August 4, 2011

By Jim Epperson
For the Salisbury Post
The St. Thomas Players current production should appeal to anyone who has encountered the hazards of falling in and, even out, of love.
Nineteen characters, played by eight very talented actors, explore the complexities of the human heart in the mythical town of Almost, Maine. John Cariani’s new comedy, told in short vignettes, happens on one night in northern Maine. More to the point, the action in each vignette takes place at the same time on a Friday night in the middle of winter under the Northern Lights.
And while these decent human beings have been placed within the lonely vastness of a snow-covered terrain, Almost, Maine could be anywhere. Or, more specifically, it is everywhere. For who amongst us hasn’t been hot in the pursuit of love? Who doesn’t seek the right human connection? And, who hasn’t lost hope along the way?
The action builds like a snowball, a flurry of imagination, as each vignette adds a new layer of complexity while new characters encounter the mysteries of the human heart. The play at times is filled with wonder. It can also become odd and almost supernatural. But, overall, it’s filled with good humor and even slapstick love. And truth. There’s a great deal of truth poking out of the mounds of snow that surround the audience. It’s a show with a big heart. It’s magical.
Director Justin Dionne has mounted a solid production. Effective staging enables a smooth dramatic flow, even with the many vignettes. Varied stage compositions add greatly to visual and intellectual appeal of the scenes.
Dionne’s good work with the actors also adds needed depth to the overall effectiveness of the script. The strong performances, set by Michelle Fleshman-Cross, Brian Romans and Lynne Harrell, lead Aaron Alderman, Emily Bartsch, Jacob Brayton, Cale Evans, and Emily Schuttenberg complete the strong ensemble. It’s difficult to form solid characterization when the characters don’t stay around very long. But these characters are vivid, enjoyable and remain memorable.
The set design by Andy Mabens allows for a great deal of variety in staging. And thankfully, from the moment you enter the theater, the heat of the day disappears. The lighting design by Chris Speer is very appropriate for the play, as well as the studio theater space. Mood and a strong sense of place are strongly enhanced by all designs. Adding a unique and enjoyable touch to the performance is the original music. Mood is strongly suggested by its composition, while the music also adds to the effective flow of this less than two hour production.
“Almost, Maine” will continue to be performed at the Florence Busby Corriher Theatre on the campus of Catawba College behind Keppel Auditorium, today through Saturday and Aug. 10-13 at 7:30 pm. Tickets may be purchased in advance at Salisbury’s Literary Bookpost or at the theater box office on the nights of performance.
Jim Epperson is professor emeritus in theater at Catawba College.