By John Lyle Belden
When you consider that the Carmel Apprentice Theatre, resident company at The Cat, involves those with limited (or no) experience taking the stage with the aid of mentors, it’s tempting to lower expectations. No need, though, with the CAT production of “Almost, Maine,” by John Cariani.
The northern edge of the United States has an exceptionally weird atmosphere, judging by TV shows like “Northern Exposure” or “Twin Peaks,” or the Maine-set novels of Stephen King. However, likely due to it being “almost” in good-natured Canada, the weirdness in our little township (they almost incorporated into a town) is more bent towards the sublime than the spooky.
Directed by first-timer Zach Kreinbrink with Jayda Glynn, this set of comedy scenes finds love in the air on a winter night.
Pete and Ginette (Tim West and Amelie Thibodeau) test how “close” they can get to each other. Glory (Caroline Ryker) carries her broken heart with her as she looks for the Northern Lights in East’s (Jake Williams) back yard. At the MoosePaddy Pub (“Drink Free If You’re Sad”), Jimmy (West) feels like the bad guy for losing Sandrine (Hannah Vaught), but a cheery waitress (Deanna Larkin) is on hand with her freebie flask.
Can love get through to Steve (Malcolm Marshall), who literally can’t feel pain? Marvalyn (Emma Leary) understands being hurt too well. Lendall (Brandt Ryan) is confronted by sweetheart Gayle (Allison Hermann) who is tired of all their love piling up, just sitting there. Out at frozen Echo Pond, a skating date isn’t going well for Phil (Brian Thibodeau) and Marci (Larkin). All this and more in a gently aburdist world where “falling in love” can literally involve gravity.
An excellent display of budding and hidden talents, this cast charms throughout. Hopefully we’ll see a bit more of these folks on area stages in the future.
For now, visit “Almost, Maine,” Thursday through Sunday, May 4-7, at 254 Veterans Way, Carmel (just south of Main Street downtown). Tickets and info at thecat.biz.