reviewed by Ken Klingenmeier

It’s always a bit difficult to review a play which you have directed or been in with a clear sense of purpose. And for me, trying to review Mud Creek Players’ production, maybe any production, of John Cariani’s brilliant play about love – Almost Maine – is likely to be a struggle. A struggle with my own memories, and ideals.

When I first read the script in 2011, I was immediately taken by the thoughtful and original concepts put forth in Cariani’s writing – simply put, I loved it! It is such a unique play – 9 vignettes, each portraying some aspect of love. Along the way, it shows us love that is sweet, or complicated, or star-crossed, or taboo, or dismaying – with characters from all over the map of humankind. I was so taken on that first reading that I immediately set about planning to direct the show. The production was a wonderful experience for me with some of the hardest work I had ever done for a local show. In the end, I felt I loved the play even more.

Mason Odle and Jennifer Poynter work together in a scene entitled “Her Heart”

As it turns out, I had no reason to think I wouldn’t be pleased. Mud Creek Players’ Almost Maine is a charmingly entertaining journey through these stories of love. Just as I remembered, John Cariani indeed provides an unbeatable script in terms of humor, sweetness, and originality. I guarantee you that you have never thought about love in the same way Mr. Cariani writes about it.

Kyrsten Lyster and Matt Hartzburg in a scene called “Getting It Back”

The nine stories in the play are brought to life by director Andrea Odle and her impeccable cast of players – all of whom do near flawless work onstage. Jackson Stollings and Lexi Odle make up one of the four duos director Odle has employed, working in a scene which is visited periodically through the play. Mason Odle and Jennifer Poynter team up for four of the tidy scenes, while Matt Hartzburg and Krysten Lyster appear together in three others. Mssrs. Odle and Hartzburg share a scene called “They Fell”, which is perhaps the most inventively written offering. All these scenes come off so well due to the fine work of the director and the actors – it would be impossible to presume to name a best one, let alone a favorite. Let me just say that I am especially thrilled to have seen this play which I love so much – done so well.

Jackson Stollings and Lexi Odle share the stage in MCP’s production of “Almost Maine”

The vignettes are played on a variety of sets designed by Ms. Odle and they too work very well. Music, which the author offers as a part of producing his show, is a great fit.

Bottomline: Andrea Odle’s directorial debut with MCP’s Almost Maine is an unmitigated success. Her choices for her actors and for the production in general were both innovative and correct. Furthermore, the quality of acting is seamlessly superior. The result is a wonderfully full entertainment which is a must see! This is top-notch community theatre!

I’m betting that seats for this production of Almost Maine will go fast – do yourself a large favor and get to their web page at . (BTW – they no longer take reservations by phone.)

  • photos by Duane Mercier