“Almost, Maine” is quite a hit at Brooklyn College

It’s the mythical town of Almost in the very real state of Maine. Some unusual pairs of friends unlock their secrets on a wintry evening. The disarming, delightful stories that unfold are almost allegories, sometimes metaphors and occasional parables.  Whatever you label them, they offer wisdom and whimsy that break down our urban arrogance.

Director Katherine Harte-DeCoux has New Yorkers at an admirable disadvantage.  She says, “I originally hail from…Michigan: specifically Flint…and the rural townships that surround it…My childhood winters were full of …the smells of wood smoke, pine and snow.”

It’s a wonderfully wistful frame of reference. In it, Brooklyn College’s talented actors interpret playwright John Cariani’s small town New England vignettes.

Only four actors portray 18 very different roles. All bring a studied signature to their character. Julie Orkis, a very capable, familiar face on Brooklyn College stages, plays heartbroken “Glory.” Later, she’s a very likable, down-to-earth waitress. Her vulnerable “Ginette” appears in the prologue, interlogue and epilogue. In a poignant scene, she loses hope as a character named “Hope.”

Catleen Kelly offers very entertaining physical humor as Marvalyn in “This Hurts.” She accidentally wallops Steve (Miklos Nemeth) with an ironing board. Both Kelly and Nemeth return for more physical comedy in “Seeing the Thing” as they frantically peel away layers of winter garments in a moment of newfound attraction.

Conor Sullivan ably navigates his various personalities. In the prologue, he is pensive and painfully scientific. In “Getting it Back,” his character Lendall (that’s lend all) has given away his affection to his frustrated girlfriend. In the second act, Sullivan and Nemeth literally fall for each other in “They Fell.”

In addition to fine acting, the troupe’s consistent behind-the-scenes support elevates every performance. The wintry scene with tall, snowcapped firs and piles of snow create a beautiful backdrop (Omayra Garriga, set design).

Colorful costumes (Jeannipher Pacheco) reinforce the feeling of a cold evening.  The shimmering stars overhead and a mesmerizing Aurora Borealis add more dazzle (Colin Chauche, lighting design).

Flutes and guitars enhance the transition from story to story (Lee Krahenbuhl, David Frantz—original music, with Rebecca Shumel co-sound design). Noel MacDuffie is stage manager.

For information on this and future productions call the box office at 718-951-4500 or surf to depthome.brooklyn.cuny.edu/theater/. As always, save me a seat on the aisle.

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