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Dignity Players’ Almost, Maine

Davina Grace Hill

Journeys to familiar lands have a comforting appeal because you know what to expect. A different kind of interest comes from visiting new locations and experiencing new outlooks. This is true for vacations, as well as theater. In Dignity Players’ current superb offering of Almost, Maine, you get to experience a magical new place in theater and discover a new site on the map of the human heart.
    Kudos to director Mickey Lund for bringing this little sparkle, written by John Cariani and described as a mid-winter night’s dream, to the Annapolis theater scene. Eight actors bring to life 11 vignettes set in the unincorporated community of Almost, Maine at a specific nine o’clock on a cold Friday night when the northern lights are dancing.
    The house lights dim to reveal magical twinkling lights across the ceiling, creating wonder and delight. A simple set of cutout trees, fluffy snow and a park bench, designed by Laurie Nolan, adds to the evocation. Director Lund’s use of sound, in both effects and musical background, adds great depth and power.
    Scenes are tied together by location and theme: love. There are scenes of attractions starting, of falling in love (literally: the characters fall down when they fall in love), of love lost, of love squandered, of love recognized, of love awaited. Director Lund expertly blends slapstick with quiet, poignant moments, creating a funny, enjoyable experience that creeps up to become quite moving and profound.
    All eight actors are true to their characters and their mythical town, and all eight deliver excellent performances. Ali Vellon and Jason Vellon share three scenes that bookend the show and with little dialogue manage to carry great import and sweetness.
    Karen Lambert and Nick Beschen share the showiest scene and work it to perfection. Dan Kavanaugh and Kathleen Ruttum’s scene is about losing hope, and these actors convey a quiet, slowly revealed intense power. Jeff Mocho is hilarious in the falling in love scene. In another scene, Shirley Panek’s desperation at realizing her love is over is achingly truthful.
    Program notes describe this text as wry and gentle and more about the spaces between the lines, rather than the lines spoken. This production of Almost, Maine is charming, delightful and utterly captivating in those evocative silences.
    There is only one weekend left to visit the magical place known as Almost, Maine. Make it your destination.

Playing 8pm Th-Sa March 8-10 at Unitarian Universalist Church, Annapolis. $15 ThSu; $20 FSa: 410-266-8044 x127; www.dignityplayers.org.