‘Maine’ not hopeless but for romantics

The first thing that caught my mind was how close to the set I was. As I took a seat in Little Theater for a showing of “Almost, Maine,” my first play at Transylvania, I was surprised by the intimacy that the stage gave off.

Given the fact that there are never more than three characters on stage at a time, being so close to the action created a much more personal attachment to the characters, and made their turmoil and joy that much more effective.

Alumnus John Code and sophomore Hilary Hutchinson act out a very concrete fight over love in one scene from 'Almost, Maine'

The set itself was fantastic — very detailed and natural, save the slightly unbelievable rock doors in a few scenes. The music wasn’t anything of a masterpiece — the first word that comes to mind is ephemeral — but I believe that this does fit in well with the themes of the play.

On to the plot. This simplification of the story seems fairly accurate: love, in its many forms, in 95 minutes.

The play has no central plot; it is merely nine scenes set in the same fictional city. The nine distinct scenes are all thematically related to love, including an argument, a breakup, a now-separate couple meeting once again and even a brief glance at homosexuality. The relationships between the characters, while at times cliché, come together as a whole to represent modern love fairly expansively.

One thing that is clear, which is exemplified by the scene “This Hurts,” is the simple truth that love is not perfect. Love hurts.

But do not fret, for this isn’t a tragedy. There are more heartwarming and sweet endings than there are heartbreaking ones, and everything ends on a good note.

In fact, if “Seeing the Thing” doesn’t have you swelling with joy by the end, I might have to question whether or not you have a heart. That scene in particular wins my vote for the greatest scene in the play, if not for anything besides the exceptional acting.

The play is not without a few minor flaws, however.

While I understand that this is fiction, a couple of moments drew me out of the experience. In particular, the endings to “Where It Went” and “They Fell” just seemed completely out of place. This did add to the near-fantasy theme that is portrayed by the setting, yet I feel that there could’ve been a much more reasonable and realistic way to end these scenes that didn’t betray the intimate sense of looking in on a conversation between two regular people that makes the rest of the play feel so special.

In addition, multiple scenes are riddled with cheesy one-liners. Some of these are tolerable, but others, when combined with the subsequent acoustic strumming that appears out of nowhere, just left me groaning. Some may love this, but it certainly did nothing for me.

As far as the cast goes, I was very impressed. As a whole, the characters had great chemistry, were well spoken and exhibited appropriate emotions in the lines, and used effective body language to portray the contrasting intimacy or anger.

In particular, first-year Garret Gabriel as the lonely, almost fanatical Jimmy; first-year Dalton Biddle as the magically shorter Daniel, who says so much with very little; and sophomore Andrew Traughber as Steve, a strange man who can’t feel pain, were incredibly impressive, for different reasons.

But Professor Ginna Hoben and Spencer Christensen, the stars of “Seeing the Thing,” stole the show for me. Abounding chemistry, wonderful energy and such excellent contrast in emotions turned this into the most memorable scene in the play.

“Almost, Maine” is a charming and expansive play, full of odd characters and slightly cliché, yet still intriguing stories. For those who love drama, romance and an occasional cheesy one-liner, this is the perfect play for you.

Cold hearts beware, however, for it is full of sappy moments that may leave you groaning. Cheesiness aside, the play is incredibly well acted and performed in a very intimate setting, jumping back and forth in an instant from painful-to-watch, heartrending moments to hilarity of many kinds. I recommend anyone with a sense of humor who can tolerate some sappiness to go see this.

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