Almost, Maine joins Naugatuck and Oakville

Clockwork Repertory Theatre, Oakville:  When one thinks of the word “almost,” one usually associates it with not nearly enough, not exactly, or not quite,  but Almost, Maine, a play about a fictional town in Maine is just enough, exactly right, and quite enjoyable.  John Cariani’s comedy is being presented by the Phoenix Stage Company of Naugatuck and Clockwork Repertory Theatre of Oakville. It’s a wonderful collaboration with actors and design teams  from both theaters working together to create nine memorable vignettes that made audiences sigh out loud over love that didn’t go quite right and applaud for love that blossomed.

John Faviani and Becky Fico start the evening with a poignant scene about how close one needs to be before actually being in love. This scene is made all the more powerful by two outstanding performances that keep the audience wondering if these two will ever find what they are looking for.

Also at their best, Tim Phillips and Alana Kingsley discover just how friendly people in Maine really are when Woman (Kingsley) puts up a tent in Man’s (Phillips) yard as she waits for the Northern Lights show. What she experiences is more than she planned for.

Ed Bassett, the artistic director of the Phoenix Stage Company superbly plays the role of broken-hearted guy who bumps into his ex-girl friend and hopes to restart the relationship. Becky Fico and Deborah Goodman are also in this scene and deliver peak performances.

In one after another, each vignette depicts real situations dealing with the many complex issues of love. Whether it’s a disappointed woman carrying her broken heart around  with her in a brown paper bag, or a man and woman giving back all the love they gave to each other in big sacks, there’s always an unexpected surprise for the audience.

First-rate performances were also given by KC Ross, Timothy Cleary and Mike Ritts. The actors played multiple roles and each actor created well conceived and believable characters for each role.

Kudos to Donna Storms who directed this five-star production.  Ed Bassett of the Phoenix designed the minimal set with great props along with Lori Poulin and with Debbie Cryan helping with the video component. Harold Pantely of Clockwork designed the lighting along with Ed Bassett.

Usually, Pantely delivers the pre-curtain speech. For this show he not only welcomed the audience as he usually does with a joke or two, but introduced Ed Bassett who also spoke to the audience about the upcoming summer season that the Phoenix will produce at Clockwork. Formerly, the Phoenix Stage Company was located in a store front facility in Naugatuck. It is now looking for a new home and is temporarily using Clockwork Repertory Theatre for the summer.

Pantely explained that Almost, Maine came about under the most unusual circumstances. He couldn’t completely cast the show and Bassett had the show almost ready to go, but nowhere to present it. The situation brought both artistic heads together and the result is a beautiful, almost magical production. It plays through May 16. Box office: 860-274-7247.

Joanne Greco Rochman is an active member in The American Theatre Critics Association.  She welcomes comments. Contact: [email protected]

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