By Linda Tenney
The current ECHO Players’ production at the Village Theatre in Qualicum Beach opens under clear winter skies tickled by a wondrous display of the Northern Lights.
Awestruck by the sight, two people sit side-by-side on a park bench in the mythical town of Almost, situated near the nothern border of Maine. And so it begins.
Comprised of eight scenes plus a prologue and epilogue, ‘Almost, Maine’ gives us a glimpse into the lives and loves of the town’s residents; ordinary people just like you and me. Director Don Harper makes good use of the play’s minimalist set design, allowing the weight of each scene to be carried by playwright John Cariani’s compelling dialogue instead; it’s witty, intelligent and human.
Interaction between the players is humorous at times, dramatic at others, and Harper’s directing skill is obvious; the scenes are well-rehearsed and superbly delivered by the 10 actors who portray the 19 roles in ‘Almost, Maine’.
Expect spot-on acting that truly brings Cariani’s believable characters to life. You may, in fact, have met a troubled couple like Phil and Marci (played by Douglas Aalseth and Jody Tkach); they might be your neighbours.
Or perhaps you know someone like Hope (played by Teresa Stanley) who made a choice in her youth that she now regrets.
You may have encountered people just like Cariani’s characters wandering in and out of your life, and certainly after seeing this play, the mythical residents of ‘Almost, Maine’ will forever be wandering around in your heart.
Metaphors and everyday expressions are given quirky form in this play.
Consider what ‘falling in love’ might actually look like. Or what all the love you’ve received might look like if bagged up and presented back to a long-time lover during the heat of a break-up – Cariani illustrates that in Scene 4, “Getting it Back”. And what if a wish on a star was actually granted as it is in Scene 6, “Where it Went”.
What seems to be an uncomplicated play actually serves up insightful commentary about the complexities of love, loss and everything in between.
Costuming is brilliantly kept to what you might wear yourself on a cold winter’s night in Maine. There is nothing to distract from Cariani’s invitation to become fully engrossed in the ostensibly ordinary situations on stage.
Look for a little magic injected into each scene. Like the aurora, it’s sometimes subtle but it’s there. Watch and recall your own feelings of anticipation, joy, trepidation, and perhaps even the anger you’ve felt when standing before someone you could love, have loved, or will love. In many ways, Cariani’s characters reflect our own experiences.
I thoroughly enjoyed ‘Almost, Maine’. I think you will, too.
The Northern Lights will continue to illuminate ‘Almost, Maine’ until May 5.
I suggest you pick up your tickets soon as talk of this excellent play will make them scarce.
Yes, it’s that good!
Tickets are available Tuesday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., at the Village Theatre Box Office, 110 W. 2nd Avenue in Qualicum Beach, or get yours online at echoplayers.ca.
Linda Tenney is the publisher of EyesOnBC Magazine