Vol. 14, No. 26 – Sept 22 – Oct 5, 2021 – A View from House Seats

by Shirley Lorraine

Conejo Players now live on stage!

Conejo Players opened the romantic comedy Almost, Maine last Friday evening to an enthusiastic audience. It certainly felt good to be back in theater seats instead of sitting at my computer.

Almost, Maine, a two-act play by John Cariani, takes place in a series of vignettes, each telling stories of friendship, love, loss, and relationships in general. All the scenes are lit with a dazzling sky full of Northern Lights, under which the participants fall in various ways in and out of its magical spell.

The quaint, fantasy town is named because of its location – almost at the top of the United States, and almost in Canada. They would be a town if they would get organized. But for now, they’re just almost.

The vignettes, each featuring a different couple and situation, explore the absurdity, awkwardness, and challenges inherent in the process of looking for love, finding love, losing love, and reconciling one’s feelings of love. In short, there is a lot packed into each scene, with the compilation forming the whole all wrapped under the spell of the evening.

Smoothly directed by Beth Eslick, the vignettes are replete with quirky personalities who bring forth some fascinating and unusual viewpoints on life and love. Author Cariani has opened a decidedly unique umbrella over a very large subject. It was delightful to experience new explorations and insights into the age-old theme.

Each scene stands alone, although references are occasionally made to the other characters, who are all residents of this small town. The use of minimal scenery changes enhances each scene against the projected background of a beautiful Northern Lights sky, allowing the actors to remain the focal points. The writer’s use of short pieces with a common underlying theme works well to spotlight each couple’s particular situation, giving each full attention and the audience something to ponder.

The very capable cast includes Robert Chambers, James Coblentz, Carl Garcia, Rose Hunter, Eric Pierce, and Heather Lynn Smith. All portray multiple distinct characters.

The actors are all excellent. Pacing is well controlled. In several scenes with quieter moments, volume dropped significantly despite each actor wearing microphones. This was opening night and no doubt each will re-adjust to on-stage projecting as they go. After all, it’s been a long 18 months and we all are readjusting. With joy.

Attendees are required to show proof of vaccination prior to entering the theater and must wear masks while inside. All appropriate precautions are being taken. Be advised – there are no physical programs. Audience members are asked to scan the QR code on the lobby wall to access cast information on their cell phones. Just another minor adjustment as we move forward.

I found the evening to be a breath of fresh air. You should go.

Almost, Maine runs through October 3 with performances on Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m., Sundays at 2 p.m. and Thursday, September 23 at 8 p.m. (805) 495-3715 or info@conejoplayers.org, or visit the website at www.conejoplayers.org for reservations.

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