Nancy Sasso Janis
'Almost, Maine,' a comedy by John Cariani, is currently running at the Clockwork Repertory Theater in Oakville. It is a co-production of the Phoenix Stage Company, formerly of Naugatuck, and the Clockwork and is probably the first time that two area theaters have collaborated on a single production.
A little back story is required...I actually began writing theatre reviews soon after the Phoenix Stage Company had the ribbon cutting ceremony at their first space on Rubber Avenue. Naugatuck Patch posted a notice online that they were looking for contributors and I came up with the idea of writing a review of the shows that I was attending at the Phoenix in an effort to encourage Patch readers to support the brand new Naugatuck theater.
Because of my lack of experience, I called myself a "theater critic wannabe" and hoped for the best. The Patch editor at the time was Ron DeRosa and thankfully he was eternally supportive. I soon had the confidence to write about the productions at other area theaters, post previews of upcoming shows in the area and reach out to press contacts for electronic press releases. And that is how this all began.
So it was a little hard for me to drive to Oakville to review the latest PSC production. I immediately missed my absolutely shortest commute to a venue (Waterbury's Palace Theater will now hold that title!) I missed the crazy rug and the familiar purple chairs (for which I had printed seat labels to make it easier for ushers to find the correct seats for patrons.) However, the Clockwork is a great space and right away I felt comfortable. The familiar Phoenix faces on the stage also helped considerably. I would encourage PSC patrons to follow along with them during this time of transition. Many loyal patrons in the matinee audience did just that and sounded happy that they did.
The setting of this show is a cold, clear, moonless night in the middle of winter in the remote, mythical town of Almost, Maine. The northern lights are in the star-filled sky while the residents fall in and out of love in very funny ways. Hearts are broken and some almost mend in the eight two-person vignettes, each no more than fifteen minutes. There is also a prologue, an “interlogue,” and an epilogue and these are even briefer than the vignettes.
Donna Storms directed all the little pieces with love. Rob Richnavsky helped the actors stay safe as the fight director, lest we think it is all hearts and flowers. Many of the actors played more than one part and had to change their appearance accordingly. Only two appear more than once, although some are referred to by name in subsequent scenes.
One very familiar face on this new stage was PSC founding member Ed Bassett. He gave his preshow speech and then headed backstage to await his entrance. Timothy Cleary and John Fabiani worked their usual magic. Becky Fico played ladies with odd names and Deborah F Goodman was a riot as a waitress. Alana Kingsley and KC Ross played two roles each, as did Tim Phillips and Mike Ritts. Every member of this cast made the most of their brief appearances and it all felt very comfortable.
The very effective lighting by Clockwork's Harold Pantely and Ed Bassett and brief video projections by Debbie Cryan and Mr. Bassett added to the look of the scenes. The layered costumes by Mr. Bassett and the cast members must have been warm for the actors on the warm Sunday afternoon that I attended.
Next up at Clockwork will be the Phoenix Stage Company's One Act Play Festival, four days of original one act plays from around the world June 18-21. All tickets for 'Almost, Maine' are $19.00 and reservations are strongly recommended, especially for Saturday nights. The Clockwork is located at 133 Main Street in Oakville CT.