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"But...now you're closer."
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Almost, Maine is a play by John Cariani set in the fictional town of Almost, Maine. The play is comprised of two acts, comprised of short scenes focused on the relationship of two or three characters. The play relies heavily on symbolism, with objects in the play acting as physical manifestations of love.

The original run of the play opened in 2006 at the Daryl Roth Theatre in New York City, with the nineteen roles being placed on four actors.

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Almost, Maine contains examples of:

  • Aerith and Bob: Lendall, East, Sandrine, Marvalyn, Villian.
  • Ambiguous Disorder: Steve, in addition to his congenital analgesia seems to have some sort of learning disability. Marvalyn lampshades this, pointing out he's never gotten an official diagnosis from a doctor and his brother Paul may have ulterior motives for treating him the way he does.
  • Ambiguous Ending: Cariani's author's notes specify that every one of the vignettes has one except for the very last one ("Seeing the Thing"), the only one where we know for sure the couple gets and stays together.
  • Amicable Exes: Jimmy and Sandrine, mostly.
    • Hope and Danny, eventually, though in a bittersweet way.
  • Awful Wedded Life: "Where It Went" is a bitterly realistic view of this trope.
  • Bag of Holding: Rings can hold a lot of love.
  • Blatant Lies: Glory promises East she'll be in his yard to see the northern lights, and then she'll be gone. He immediately notes the tent she's pitched.
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  • Book-Ends: The play begins and ends with Pete and Ginette sitting on a bench, looking at the stars.
  • Close-Knit Community: Hope tells Danny that she finds this an annoying stereotype of small towns, saying that circles of friends in small towns aren't really all that different from ones in big cities. This is humorously subverted in "Seeing the Thing", where Dave and Rhonda are apparently friends with every other couple in the rest of the play.
  • Coitus Ensues: The implied ending of "Seeing the Thing."
  • Continuity Nod: One appears in every scene after "Her Heart".
    • Continuity Cavalcade: In "Seeing the Thing", the last scene before the epilogue, Dave name-checks just about every other character in the play.
  • Crazy Jealous Guy: Marvalyn's boyfriend Eric, apparently.
  • Cue the Aurora: Each scene ends with the northern lights appearing overhead.
  • Downer Ending: "Where It Went", which is probably the only outright unhappy ending in the play; "Story of Hope" is more of a Bittersweet Ending.
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  • Drowning My Sorrows: Jimmy in "Sad and Glad". Seemingly enforced by the bar he's at, the Moose Paddy, which advertises a special: "Drink free if you're sad."
  • Economy Cast: The script calls for all of the show's roles to be played by four actors. Some productions use six or eight, but it's rare to see every role played by a different actor.
  • Fantastic Anthropologist: Steve comes off as one of these, studying human society to make long lists of "Things That Can Hurt You" and "Things To Be Afraid Of".
  • Feel No Pain: Steve in "This Hurts" due to congenital analgesia.
  • First Girl Wins: Painfully averted in "Story of Hope."
  • First Kiss: Experienced by Rhonda in "Seeing the Thing".
  • Gender-Equal Ensemble: The play was written to be performed by two women and two men. Technically, with the inclusion of the Waitress and Danny's wife as characters, the characters are gender-balanced, but the scene with Chad and Randy obviously tilts the balance of stage time towards the men — hence the Gender Flip solution below.
  • Gender Flip: In some stagings, Chad and Randy are female and renamed as Shelly and Deena. (Typically a production rotates between Chad/Randy and Shelly/Deena from night to night so all actors get equal stage time.)
  • The Ghost: Plenty of the vignettes revolve around unseen characters, especially when one member of the onstage couple is already in a relationship. Special mention goes to Glory's ex Wes, who is literally dead and whom she hopes to see as a ghost in the Northern Lights.
  • Gosh Dang It to Heck!: A lot of people in Almost say "Jeezum Crow" as a minced oath for "Jesus Christ".
  • Handy Man: East. In a bit of a Visual Pun, he finishes "Her Heart" getting to work piecing Glory's heart back together.
  • Hawaiian-Shirted Tourist: The weather is completely wrong for a Hawaiian shirt, but Glory comes off this way in "Her Heart", allowing East to play Mr. Exposition and gently disabuse her of her Innocently Insensitive preconceptions about Maine.
  • Heel Realization: Hope has impulsively come back to Almost in a blind panic because after many years she suddenly realized just how awful it was of her to leave Danny hanging when he proposed.
  • Heterosexual Life-Partners: Randy and Chad... at first, anyway.
  • High-School Sweethearts: Danny and Hope.
  • Hollywood New England: Averted. The play makes a point of distinguishing rural, northern Maine, where the play is set, from the common "Down East" stereotype of the state.
  • Horrible Housing: It's not horrible, but in "This Hurts" Ma Dudley herself apparently says Ma Dudley's Boarding House is a home of last resort for people in need "until they get their feet back on the ground." Steve casually reveals he and his brother have lived there their whole lives, because they've never gotten their feet back on the ground.
  • Huge Guy, Tiny Girl: According to his story, Randy and his ex were this trope. He had ended up injuring her while dancing.
  • Interface Spoiler: The script instructs producers that in order to avoid this, if they have a dramatis personae in the program, they should credit Villian in "Sad and Glad" as "Waitress", Danny in "Story of Hope" as "Man", and to not mention the existence of Suzette in "Story of Hope" at all.
  • The Lad-ette: Rhonda. Also Shelly and Deena, in productions that include them.
  • Literal Change of Heart: Glory claims that she's being kept alive by an artificial heart because her original one turned to stone and then shattered when Wes left her.
  • Loads and Loads of Characters: There are nineteen total characters in this short play, designed to be played by four actors taking Loads and Loads of Roles. Technically there are twenty, including Suzette, Danny's wife, who appears only as The Voice.
  • Love at First Sight: East for Glory in "Her Heart".
  • Lower-Class Lout: The characters are all working-class (or at least the Almost natives are), but the script nonetheless tries to stay away from this characterization — with the deliberate exception (according to the author) of "county boys" Chad and Randy.
  • Magic Realism: It's a mostly-serious series of vignettes about love and loss, but there are some strange things happening in Almost as well.
  • Maybe Ever After: The end of each "Her Heart", "Sad and Glad", "This Hurts", "They Fell" and "Where it Went" are all ambiguous to if the characters get together.
  • Meaningful Name: We get a hint to the ending of "The Story of Hope" from the subtle emphasis Danny puts on the word "hope" before she's told him her name.
    • In-universe, the community where the play is set calls itself "Almost" because at some point they tried to officially become an incorporated township but failed. Out-of-universe, the title refers to how all of the vignettes before the last one show us a couple almost finding true love, but cutting off before we see if they make it — or, in two cases, showing us the aftermath of them almost making it and then failing.
  • Meet Cute: A couple of them here:
    • East meets Glory when she pitches a tent in his front yard to watch the Aurora Borealis.
    • Jimmy meets Villian while he's at a bar after a breakup. What really makes this one is that he recently accidentally got an Embarrassing Tattoo of her name.
    • Marvalyn meets Steve when she whacks him in the head with an ironing board. Steve, who has a medical condition causing him to feel no pain, is unfazed— until she does it again, and he feels it.
  • Misery Poker: Chad and Randy have a game where whoever had the worst date with a woman over the weekend gets to pick the activity they do together the next day — the joke being that it doesn't matter who wins, because they both always pick the same thing (bowling, supper, beers, hanging out). The fact that the dates are always bad, never good, and that they never give them as much pleasure as hanging out together the next day leads to an inevitable conclusion.
  • Motor Mouth: The two out-of-towner characters (Glory and Hope) get long, self-involved monologues of this kind; it marks them as different from long-term residents of Almost, who aren't prone to baring their feelings at length.
  • Mr. Exposition: Light shades of this with East. He explains the story behind the not-quite-town of Almost to Glory, and as "Her Heart" is chronologically the first scene, he's providing backstory for the audience too.
  • No Doubt the Years Have Changed Me: Danny, who only becomes recognizable to Hope when he subtly shifts his appearance in some way — the stage directions suggest taking off his glasses. Apparently he's lost a lot of muscle since high school.
  • No Guy Wants an Amazon: What Rhonda fears, which is why she's still an Unexpected Virgin who's never even been kissed.
  • Old Flame: Danny and Hope.
  • One of the Boys: Rhonda, in "Seeing the Thing".
  • Product Placement: The characters are constantly drinking either Bud or, as a last resort, Natty Light.
  • Punny Name: "Story of Hope" gets a lot of mileage out of Hope's name.
    • East and Wes in "Her Heart".
  • Quirky Town
  • Relationship Upgrade: Chad and Randy, possibly, at the end of "They Fell". Same goes for Rhonda and Dave in "Seeing the Thing".
  • The Reveal: Every one of the vignettes has one, some of them more major than others:
    • "Her Heart" is a hilariously escalating series of them, starting with the one that Glory is here to pay her respects to her ex-husband's ghost, which she believes will be entering Heaven via the Northern Lights, that Glory's bag has the remnants of her shattered stone heart in it, and culminating in this:
    East: But he left you!
    Glory: I know, but I—
    East: Why should you apologize?
    Glory: Because!
    East: Because why?!
    Glory: Because I killed him!
    • The one-two Gut Punch in "The Story of Hope" where Hope finds out the man she's been pouring her heart out to about her Old Flame Danny is Danny, aged so she no longer recognizes him, followed by the fact that he's married someone else.
    • The one that ends the final vignette "Seeing the Thing" and the play as a whole. The painting Rhonda has been trying so hard to identify turns out to be a simple drawing of a heart.
  • Rouge Angles of Satin: Jimmy is so remorseful about his breakup with Sandrine that he gets a tattoo reading "Villain" on his arm— only it's misspelled as "Villian".
  • Sacred Hospitality: Glory has apparently absorbed her idea of what rural Maine is like from a somewhat romanticized tourist brochure that says homeowners typically let travelers camp out in their yards for no compensation out of the goodness of their hearts. East goes along with it... not because her brochure is accurate, but because of Love at First Sight.
    • We get a minor Call-Back to this with Danny's wife rudely demanding to know why he's letting a stranger hang out on their doorstep in "The Story of Hope".
  • School Play: Almost, Maine is an extremely popular school production, thanks to its flexibility in terms of casting and staging and its mostly PG-rated content.
  • Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness: Steve quotes his brother Paul using language from a medical textbook to describe him in terms that Steve doesn't seem to realize are incredibly insulting, saying that his "development has been retarded" and he has "many deficiencies and not a lot of capacities".
  • Shipper on Deck: Nearly everyone in town is rooting for Dave and Rhonda to get together. They Do.
  • Slapstick Knows No Gender: Marvalyn and Steve take turns getting walloped with the ironing board.
  • Small Town Boredom: Hope, when she was a teenager.
  • Snow Means Love: Pete and Ginette, in the epilogue.
  • Stealth Pun: In "Her Heart", Glory is paying up to her recently deceased husband Wes when she meets East. East and Wes?
    • There are two characters in the play who come from out of town, Glory and Hope, and represent the big wide world outside of Almost. "Land of Hope and Glory" is a famous patriotic song about the size and might of the British Empire — and in the United States is typically played at graduation ceremonies (Hope left Almost right after her college graduation with no intention of coming back).
  • Straight Gay: Chad and Randy, to their surprise.
  • Taken for Granite: Glory's heart literally turned to stone and broke. She carries around the nineteen pieces of slate in a bag.
  • Throwing Off the Disability: Part of the Magic Realism of the show is Steve's "congenital analgesia" mysteriously curing itself when he falls in love with Marvalyn — raising the question of whether he ever really had it.
  • The Unfair Sex: Glory's ex Wes stepping out on her is portrayed negatively in "Her Heart", as the reason her heart broke, while Marvalyn cheating on Eric is a positive thing in "This Hurts".
  • Visual Pun: Several of the vignettes hinge on one of these:
    • "Her Heart" has Glory inexplicably carrying around a bag filled with pieces of broken rock that she claims is very important to her. It turns out to be the remnants of her heart, after her ex-boyfriend's betrayal turned it to stone and broke it to pieces.
    • "This Hurts" has Marvalyn pick up Steve's book labeled "Things That Can Hurt You" and whack him in the back of the head with it. It also ends with The Reveal that Steve's brother Paul included the emotional pain of falling in love as one of the things Steve should beware of, and that when Steve lets himself fall in love with Marvalyn he's suddenly capable of feeling physical pain too.
    • "They Fell" has Chad and Randy literally pratfall the moment each of them realizes they've "fallen in love" with the other, and find their inability to deal with this fact leaves them literally unable to stand up.
    • In "Where It Went" Phil and Marci have just finished ice skating and are changing out of their skates, but Marci can't find one of her shoes. As the scene progresses, they have a vicious argument that leads to them realizing, and admitting out loud, the failed state of their marriage... and then Marci's shoe falls from the sky. Yes, the other shoe literally drops. Notably, this doesn't make the scene any less of a huge bummer.
    • A subversion happens in "The Story of Hope". Daniel's body has shrunk due to "losing a lot of hope", which is already a pun on Hope's name. The twist is, despite being physically smaller, he ends up being the bigger person by forgiving Hope.
    • "Seeing the Thing" has Rhonda spending the whole story trying and failing to make out what's actually depicted by the painting Dave made for her, implying it's a Magic Eye optical illusion of some kind — only for The Reveal to be that it's only a simple drawing of a heart. (His love was something so simple and obvious she couldn't recognize it even when it was right in front of her.)
  • Wacky Marriage Proposal: "Getting It Back" turns out to be one.
  • Wham Line: There's one in "A Story of Hope."
    Suzette: Honey? Dan, hon? Who's there?
  • Where the Hell Is Springfield?: Averted — the script gives us a map showing us exactly where Almost would be if it were a real place. Played straight with out-of-towners Glory and Hope, neither of whom give us any indication where exactly in the rest of the country they came from.
  • Who Names Their Kid "Dude"?: East—he notes that his name is actually Easton, his hometown, due to a mistake on his birth certificate.
  • Wintry Auroral Sky: The Northern Lights play a major role in the first vignette, "Her Heart", and provide the scene transitions for every subsequent story.
  • Wish Upon a Shooting Star: In "Where It Went".
  • Zip Me Up: In "Seeing the Thing", Dave unzips Rhonda's jacket, leading up them stripping their winter clothes off.
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