Theatrikos Theatre Company presented Almost, Maine, by John Cariani, and directed by Nancy Wonders and Ray Michalowski, May 23 through June 8, 2014. On a cold, clear, moonless night in the middle of winter, all is not quite what it seems in the remote, mythical town of Almost, Maine. As the northern lights hover in the star-filled sky above, Almost’s residents find themselves falling in and out of love in unexpected and often hilarious ways. Knees are bruised. Hearts are broken. But the bruises heal, and the hearts mend—almost—in this delightful midwinter night’s dream.
From the nomination letter:
Being a longtime fan, volunteer, and currently an employee of Theatrikos, I know that the idea persists that stage plays are often viewed by the public as either erring on the side of comedy at the expense of substance, or coming across as poignant and “meaty,” yet humorless. There is nothing necessarily wrong with either extreme, as not everything can be expected to appeal to everyone and a well-rounded theatre group should take chances by choosing a diverse selection of plays to produce. However, it is especially satisfying when one is able to witness a performance of a work that is simultaneously funny, profound, and enjoyable to watch. In my opinion, John Cariani’s “Almost, Maine,” as directed by Professors Nancy Wonders and Ray Michalowski, was such a work.
If one word can describe this dramedy, it is “heart.” The play is a series of vignettes about people falling in and out of love in various configurations. Much like Bob Dylan’s album “Blood on the Tracks,” it comes at the idea of “love” from multiple angles, leaving the audience to see their own lives in the exaggerated situations that the characters face. Employing techniques routed in magical realism, these stories that at times seem far-fetched are in fact universally relatable. With a large cast of massively talented individuals along with a hard-working crew, Ray and Nancy put together a show that Theatrikos patrons will be discussing for a long time.
In reality, audiences only witnessed one half of the story, as the friendships that were built and strengthened throughout the production process were influenced by the “heart” conveyed in the play. While Theatrikos’ shows frequently throw together new and old friends and create a family-like environment, “Almost, Maine” was an exceptional example where this family was especially close and has endured to the present day. In fact, the production is not even officially over yet, as we intend to resurrect the play for a theatre competition next spring.
Ray and Nancy are frequent collaborators who have a great deal in common. For one, they are both NAU professors who are active in issues pertaining to social justice. Also, they both worked extensively with the late Doris Harper-White, a founding member of Theatrikos and namesake of our playhouse. As it has been many years since Ms. White was actively involved with the theatre, Nancy and Ray are two of the few remaining links who pull together the past, present, and future of our company, and who actively continue Doris’ legacy.
While the cast and crew were very impressive, and it is difficult to single anyone out from within the family created by this project, I feel that it is appropriate that Ray and Nancy are recognized for everything they did to make this show a success in every regard.