A closeup look at everyday people negotiating this thing called love — from sweet to bittersweet — is what viewers will find when they get a ticket to “Almost, Maine” courtesy Coastal Repertory Theatre.
In Coastal Rep’s production running through June 23 in Half Moon Bay, this play by John Cariani gets its due in a very satisfying way.
Fans of television’s “Northern Exposure” should revel in this crazy quilt of quirky personalities living and loving in this fictional town in the frigid north. In nine vignettes, from two to three actors portray couples in every stage of love and being in or out of love (even if they don’t know it.) It’s an offbeat format but it works well here, exploring individual manifestations of love with gentle, warm, wry and slapstick humor.
Theatrical veterans to stage newcomers enact the wide range of characters with sincerity and realism. Aided by Cariani’s everyday, colloquial style, they portray these characters as real, everyday people.
Of particular note are Sean Rollings and Ken Will alternating the role of a man who goes through love’s highs and lows but ends with a minor miracle, Bob Mitton, Steve Travis and Greet Jaspaert with their physical comedy, Jamie Sharp and Jordan Kersten who make quirky and ditsy endearing, and Elizabeth Lowenstein’s waitress, who is key to the heartbroken man finding that miracles exist.
Cariani’s script does more than capture matters of the heart: it also questions issues like perceived and real differences between men and women, the importance of taking a breath before hasty action, or the extent to which we are capable of concealing things that count, even from ourselves. Cariani is also skillful with symbolism and leaving a great deal unsaid for the audience to figure out.
The course of true love does not always run smoothly. One vignette examines a couple for whom love has died, with honesty and stark symbolism. This vignette gives the play depth and balance it might have otherwise missed had it stuck with only humor.
Kudos to violinist Stephen Yogi, whose sweetly rhapsodic original melodies performed during scene changes, beautifully complement the individual vignettes. Costume designer Lisa Claybaugh’s cold-weather gear, and set designer Paul Anable’s minimalist set with a snowbank, and his and Valerie Clear’s lighting design of a starry sky with shimmering Northern Lights, cozily and firmly set the scene.
Bottom line: it may be cold outside but it’s much warmer in the heart, and in the Coastal Rep house, at this play.