Ashlyn Oakes

Pierson College talent alone put on John Cariani’s “Almost, Maine,” performed Feb. 18 to 20 in the Davenport-Pierson Auditorium. The play tells the story of the most romantic place in Maine — Township 13, Range 7, or T13–R7.

T13–R7 is a sparsely populated town located so far north that Cariani jokes it might not even be in the United States — it might not even exist. Its residents call it Almost, Maine. It’s almost a town, and the love stories that take place there are also almost love. The play is a series of vignettes that tell tales of first meetings, first love and — at the core — human connection.

This performance is directed and produced by Chandler Gregoire ’17, and lives up to Cariani’s simple legacy. The play is short and sweet, and left me feeling a little gooey and wanting someone to stroke my hand and tell me I was pretty.

The play’s six scenes are earnest and easy to watch from the very beginning. Gregoire doesn’t just present the scenes written by Cariani, though — the prologue is an original tap dance choreographed and performed by Tony Scott ’17 and Kira Tebbe ’17 to music performed and written by Jeremy Sims ’17. Tebbe looks at Scott’s (sometimes blank) face with puppy love so believable I wanted to squeal. The actors were silent, letting a voice-over and the sharp taps of their shoes narrate their feelings. She nudges his shoulder. He breaks out in a smile. They sit together, grinning, until Scott’s character accidentally insults Tebbe’s. The scene ends with her running off stage, but the couple gets back together in the epilogue. This time, Tebbe is carrying her dancing shoes in her hand. She returns to sit next to Scott, and they sit in an enamored silence.

The two were one of many mixed-raced couples. The work was also inclusive in that there were multiple queer couples portrayed. In addition, the additional content makes Gregoire’s version of the play so much more charming than the script standing alone. The scenes and dances and songs fit the tone of the play, but create within the play a richer world for the audience to enjoy.

The rest of the short scenes are similar in theme and tone, sometimes relying on very cute literal interpretations of common aphorisms about love. In the first scene, a repairman, portrayed by Collin Taylor ’16, puts together the broken shards of the heart of a hiker, Beah Jacobson ’17. In another scene between Gregoire and Stefani Kuo ’17, both end up with bruised knees — they literally fall in love.

Despite the sugary overtones, though, in some small moments, the actors turn away from the wide smiles and blushing cheeks to the more uncomfortable parts of love: the endings. It’s equally effective in inspiring emotional response in the audience. When Will Viederman ’17 and Lilla Brody ’18 met after their very one-sided breakup, toes curled as a silence says what her character didn’t: Please leave me alone. Gregoire delivers another noteworthy performance— in addition to directing, she herself played three characters. All of Cariani’s characters are remarkably similar, but Gregoire still displayed impressive range in jumping from story to story.

Musical pieces interspersed between scenes facilitate their mood changes. Some of these are original compositions by Sims, Ingrid Michaelson, Isabelle Rossi de Leon ’17 and Edith Piaf. In many scenes, Rossi de Leon’s voice carries the dreamy transitions. Most scenes end in a soft song performed by Rossi de Leon and Clara Robertson ’17 clad in bright red dresses.

Gregoire’s interpretation of “Almost, Maine” adds to the original’s considerable charm. The play is perfect to watch with chips and dip on a cold, lonely February night alone.