Sunday, February 25, 2007

Almost, Maine

I went to see a play this afternoon written by an alum of my college, and I went with an alum of my college, not to have a sort of school spirit thing. I didn't know it was by an alum until last week and I really wasn't interested in going until my friend and I were making plans for the weekend. The playwright and I were actually there at the same time--he was a few years ahead of me. I didn't recognize his name but I recognized him when I saw him. His name is John Cariani and his "day" job is playing Beck, the forensics technician on Law and Order. I kept seeing him in L&O and thinking I knew him, but couldn't think why.

God forgive me, I really wanted to not like his play. I wanted it to be pretentious and overblown the way many student plays were when I was at college even though that was nearly 15 years ago. I have nothing against him personally, I just was too human and bitter. Almost, Maine is a sweet and tender set of 9 short plays set in northern Maine where the sky is big. All of the plays are about love and all have an element of magic realism in them. For example, one woman brings six laundry sized bags to her lover saying, "This is all the love you've given me. I'm giving it back and I want the love I've given you."

Another character carries her broken heart in a paper bag. Two men discover they love each other and "fall" repeatedly. Despite the fantastical elements, the characters were always real--well played by a friend of mine and the rest of the cast. In one of the two darker pieces a man and wife realize that they no longer love each other, not because of something big and disasterous, but because of a small turning away that each has been doing for ages. I would hazard a guess that every person in a long-term relationship in that audience related to that piece. The set was simple with simple snow drop boxes covering the scene changes. There was a discussion after and the director said he wanted it to look like a snow globe being shaken up each time. The backdrop was a star field--the most basic kind with tiny LED's in black cloth and yet they were fantastic when lit. Truly lovely.

He actually remembered me, well, sort of and we exchanged a few words on mutual aquaintances. What's funny is that he, himself is an odd person. Strangely awkward, still seeming like the guy I knew at 22. I've found this most pronouncedly in playwrights for some reason--this ability to write the most exquisite interaction on stage, but unable to actually live it.

Oh, also...I've been talking for awhile with various theater friends about how so many new plays are just unproduceable--they jump from scene to scene, they want effects that only Lincoln Center could afford, etc., the effects of television. While these were 9 short plays, each play was well thought out and shaped and contained one location, one time. It's not that I think we need to return to the classical unities or that the break from them was a bad thing for it's time, it's just that there doesn't seem to be a building of relationships in plays anymore, and it was nice to see this return.

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