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Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2010

Milwaukee Rep Examines Love in ‘Almost, Maine’

Theater Review

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On a Friday night in the deep of winter, the residents of the remote, fictional town in Almost, Maine let their love stories unfold, revealing how feelings of affection and attachment can swing from easy and uncomplicated to painful and confounding, and how wildly unpredictable the consequences of their actions can be.

Written by playwright and actor John Cariani, who hails from the city of Presque Isle in northern Maine, the romantic comedy consists of eight tightly constructed scenes that take place in different locales around the small town. Working before a simple yet whimsical backdrop of twinkling stars and an enchanting re-creation of the aurora borealis, four actors—Steve Haggard, Elizabeth Ledo, Gerard Neugent and Deborah Staples—play 19 different characters.

Director Laura Gordon draws stellar performances from each actor and complements Cariani’s efficient and heartfelt dialogue with effective comedic timing. As a widow clutching the pieces of her broken heart in a brown paper bag, a dissatisfied wife hoping to rekindle her marriage, a woman attracted to a man that cannot feel pain, a spunky waitress named Villian, or a snowmobiling tomboy, guest actor Elizabeth Ledo stands out among the talented cast with charming magnetism.

Almost Maine, performed in the Milwaukee Repertory Theater’s intimate Stiemke Theater through Feb. 7, thoughtfully examines the ever-elusive and universal theme of love from different perspectives, each of them valuable.

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