51 pages 1 hour read

John Cariani

Almost, Maine

Fiction | Play | Adult | Published in 2004

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Summary and Study Guide


Almost, Maine is a play in two acts, and is comprised of a prologue, a four-scene first act, an interlogue, a four-scene second act (one of which has two different versions one can choose from), and finally an Epilogue. The title refers to an imagined town in Northern Maine, named Almost, that the playwright, John Cariani, writes, “doesn’t quite exist” (11). Each scene consists of at least two main characters, and, aside from the Prologue, Interlogue, and Epilogue, none of the characters onstage repeat (though some are mentioned tangentially in later scenes).

The Prologue (and later the Interlogue and Epilogue) features two characters, Pete and Ginette, sitting on a bench. They have been dating for a bit but have not gone to the next level. Ginette makes the first move in that direction, telling Pete she loves him, and Pete eventually tells her he loves her back. This joyous moment is ruined when Pete gets lost in a theory he’s just come up with about distance, causing Ginette to get frustrated and leave. After trying to salvage the moment, the Prologue ends either with Pete sitting on the bench or with him attempting to go after Ginette.

Act One, Scene One, titled “Her Heart,” brings an out-of-town hiker, Glory, to an Almost, Maine native East’s yard. Glory has come to Almost in the hopes of seeing the northern lights, which she thinks will mark the passing on of her recently deceased husband. East, confused as to why she has set up camp in his yard, strikes up a conversation, during which he ends up kissing her, almost as if it is outside his control. After the kiss, Glory reveals that her husband left her, broke her heart (which she has been holding in a paper bag throughout the scene), tried to come back, and then died after she refused, so she feels guilty. As the northern lights play overhead, the scene ends with East, a repairman, taking the bag with Glory’s heart in it, saying he can repair it.

Act One, Scene Two, “Sad and Glad,” follows Jimmy and Sandrine, who had split up a while ago, running into each other at a local hangout. Over the course of their conversation, Jimmy tries to see if Sandrine will come over because he misses her, but Sandrine tells him she’s getting married the next day. The conversation grows even more awkward as Jimmy tries to get the waitress’s attention to order celebratory drinks, and Sandrine sees he’s gotten a tattoo—Villian, a misspelling of villain—after they broke up. Sandrine leaves and the scene ends with Jimmy’s realization that the waitress’s name is Villian, which gives him something to hope for.

Scene Three, “This Hurts,” follows a conversation in a boarding house laundry room between Steve, a man who can’t feel pain and carries a notebook where he writes down things that can hurt one, so he can learn what to be afraid of, and Marvalyn, who is doing laundry for her and her boyfriend. Marvalyn accidentally knocks Steve in the head with the ironing board, and he explains his condition and how his brother is helping him learn what causes pain. During the conversation, Marvalyn reveals she thinks Steve’s brother is overly controlling, and Steve reveals he hears Marvalyn and her boyfriend fighting all the time. During the course of the conversation, they share a kiss, and the scene ends with Marvalyn again accidentally hitting Steve, but this time he cries out, as though in pain.

Scene Four, “Getting It Back,” which concludes Act One, has Gayle showing up at Lendall’s door in order to break up with him, because she thinks he never wants to get married, even though they’ve been together eleven years, and she’s there to give him back the love he gave her and wants the love she gave him back, too. When all the love is piled on the stage, Lendall’s love for Gayle dwarfs Gayle’s for Lendall, (which is just a small red pouch), but it is revealed the that the pouch contains a wedding ring that Lendall was going to give Gayle.

The Intermission ends with the Interlogue, which again features Pete onstage looking after Ginette and then down at his snowball. The scene fades with him either still on the bench or slowly going after Ginette.    

Act Two begins with Scene Five, “They Fell.” There are two versions, one for two male friends, and one for two female friends. As they talk about how awful their recent heterosexual dating experiences have been, one of the friends, Chad/Shelly, reveals that the other, Randy/Deena, is the only good thing in his/her life, which freaks the other friend out. Eventually, upon eye contact, Chad/Shelly literally falls (collapses) in love with Randy/Deena, and, after first being upset by this, Randy/Deena also falls (collapses) in love, and the scene ends with them trying to get to one another but collapsing each time their eyes meet.

In Scene Six, “Where It Went,” Phil and Marci, a married couple, are having an argument. Phil thinks Marci has been mad all evening, but she insists she hasn’t. Through the catalyst of a missing shoe, Marci reveals she is indeed mad because it is their anniversary and Phil has forgotten, and she feels like he doesn’t pay attention. This makes Phil mad, because if Marci won’t admit she is mad, Phil can’tfix the problem. The scene ends with the missing shoe falling from the sky, and Marci driving off.

Scene Seven, “Story of Hope,” opens with a woman, Hope, knocking on a door, trying to reconnect with her old boyfriend after having left several years prior. He had just proposed, and Hope never gave him an answer, but she is there to give it, finally. When the man who opens the door does not look like her old boyfriend, she ramblingly explains her mistake. Finally, it is revealed that this is her old boyfriend, Daniel, but he looks so different because he had lost hope in the intervening years, waiting for her answer. The scene ends with his wife calling Daniel inside, and Hope saying she will marry Daniel, after Daniel has gone inside and shut the door.

Scene Eight, “Seeing the Thing,” is the final full scene of Act Two, and follows the developing relationship between Dave and Rhonda. Dave has been interested in Rhonda for a long time, but she does not seem to understand that he, or any man, might be interested in her, so Dave tries to reveal his feelings by giving her an abstract painting he made. Rhonda doesn’t take it well, but eventually Dave convinces her he’s serious and all their friends are rooting for them. They eventually kiss and go inside the house.

The play ends with the Epilogue, in which Pete again appears on stage, either starting at the bench, or standing looking after Ginette. Eventually she approaches from the other direction, having apparently gone all the way around the world to get close to him.