BEMIDJI-A world-famous play that's been translated into almost 20 different dialects will make its debut Wednesday at the Chief Theater in Bemidji.
Opening at 7:30 p.m., is "Almost, Maine," a richly satisfying play written by actor John Cariani. It immediately becomes obvious as to why it has become one of the most produced plays in the country and internationally, with translations into almost 20 different dialects worldwide.
Opening in Portland, Maine, in 2004, "Almost, Maine" immediately broke box office records and was also hailed by critics. Comprised of 11 short scenes: the Prologue (which continues in the Interlogue and Epilogue), Her Heart, Sad and Glad, This Hurts, Getting It Back, They Fell, Where It Went, Story of Hope, and Seeing the Thing, the New York Times review said, "John Cariani's Almost, Maine is a series of nine amiably absurdist vignettes about love, with a touch of good-natured magic realism...a beautifully structured play, with nifty surprise endings (most but not all of them happy) and passing references to characters from other vignettes, which slyly tell us more about them. Mr. Cariani describes the play's subject as 'falling in and out of love.' It is just as much about pain."
For this performance, in the dark confines of the Chief Theater, it proved to be one of those moments when the world exceeds expectations. Once in awhile (and even more often if we are lucky), we open a book, read a poem, view a work of art, watch an interpretive dance, visit a well-tended garden, or simply listen to a song in the dark...that stops time. The experience moves us beyond ourselves, taking us to a place that may well be the closest to heaven we may be allowed, while still on this earth.
While each presentation may be different, what is truly important-what really matters and stays with us-is that for a moment or two the pieces of our existence, most times to be found in a whirlwind called life, manage to come together. Gently and slowly drifting into place. . . suddenly, surely and even unexpectedly fitting together they form contentedness... the world, even with its turmoil and trouble, makes perfect, pleasing and magnificent sense.
This was the case while viewing the playhouse's production of "Almost, Maine." As directed by Jim Williams in these nine stunning vignettes, Carol Fosse, Diana Jurand, Nic Delcambre and Vincent Hannam, share some 19 roles and do a fine job with each one. In every character, they manage to evoke an intensity of feeling in these glimpses of love, life and loss, so that one is easily given a means of transportation into these lives on any given day in the nearly completed town of Almost, Maine. The light from their emotions shines so convincingly from the stage, one can almost imagine Almost could be here... or there... or anywhere.
Cariani, as the playwright, gives his audience this thing called love in most of its forms; some just beginning, a few in the middle, and one or more may be ending, as well. In each instance, we may well learn something new about this emotion so vital to existence. As the inhabitants of Almost share their roles and rules that may, at times, appear visibly different in the Northern Lights found out East, it all retains a familiarity in the other-worldly lights of their nighttime sky for this audience, too. Love, as it turns out, seems to be vastly similar in its human manifestations, the world over.
Gavin Johnson is the stage manager for "Almost, Maine," with scenic design by Joe Johnson, Meghan Kent designing costumes, Grant E. Merges designed the lighting, stitchery was done by Marilyn Hood with technicians Thomas Sonneman and Ryan Zako completing the crew.
This production of "Almost, Maine" is underwritten by North Central Door Co. and performances are today through Saturday at 7:30 with a Sunday, July 23, matinee performance at 2 p.m., continuing Wednesday, July 26, through Saturday, July 29, again at 7:30 p.m. Tickets may be purchased by calling the box office at (218) 751-7270 or online at www.thechieftheater.com/tickets.html. Opening nights and matinees are $17, with regular admission at $22 and student tickets are $12. "Legally Blonde," the final production of this season, will run Aug. 2 through Aug. 12.
If you go
What: 'Almost, Maine' by Paul Bunyan Playhouse
When: Opens Wednesday. Through Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and a 2 p.m. Sunday, July 23, matinee at 2 p.m. Continues Wednesday, July 26, through Saturday, July 29, at 7:30 p.m.
Where: Chief Theater, 314 Beltrami Ave. NW, downtown Bemidji.
Tickets: Tickets may be purchased by calling the box office at (218) 751-7270 or online at www.thechieftheater.com/tickets.html. Opening nights and matinees are $17, with regular admission $22; student tickets are $12.
Up next: 'Legally Blonde,' the final production of the 2017 season, runs Aug. 2-Aug. 12.