Sunday, May 22, 2016

Almost, Maine—Shaking the Tree—SE Portland

Love Hurts

This touching comedy-drama is written by John Cariani, directed by Devon Lyon and produced by Lyon Theatre at the Shaking the Tree Warehouse location, 823 SE Grant St., through May 28th.  Be aware it is only street parking, so plan your time accordingly.  For more information, contact them at

This is a delightful and poignant series of skits of how Love affects people, as told by four actors in various guises.  Love is elusive, ever-changing and evolving, and, as mentioned, can hurt.  It’s not so much that Love is fickled but people often are.  Love is pretty constant but does defy a clear definition.  And it can easily be confused with a kissing cousin, Lust which, in films, is usually what they mean when they “fall in love” at the drop of a hat.

But in this incarnation, it does take some amusing, and sometimes touching, turns and most of them with a twist that you won’t see coming.  The cast includes Jamie Langton, Katie O’Grady Field, John Zoller and Jason Satterlund embodying about 20 roles in nine scenes.  I think it would be too confusing to tell you character names, so I will attempt to capsulize the scenes without giving away the twists.  But the actors all successfully go from one role to another and give every one of them a distinct difference.

The Prologue opens with two skiers (Zoller and Field) who have just met and she is obviously smitten with him.  But he explains, in an odd sort of logic, that two people sitting next to each other are actually far apart if you look at circumference-wise.  At this point, she leaves.
In the next scene, we encounter Langton camping out on a residence lawn, who is a total stranger, to see the Northern Lights.  The owner of the property, Satterlund, is bemused and also attracted to this stranger.  She explains that she must say goodbye to a former love who had, quite literally, broken her heart.  The scene after this involves two old flames (Zoller and Field) that have a chance meeting at a bar.  He hopes to rekindle their romance but she has a surprise for him.

In the third scene Field meets a neighbor, Satterlund, who claims that he cannot feel pain and demonstrates it.  But he soon finds out there is one pain he is not immune to.  In the fourth scene Langton is at the point of breaking up with Zoller because she feels that after years of a relationship, there doesn’t seem to be a permanent commitment on his part, so she gives him his Love back and now wants hers in return.  What she actually gets is more than she bargains for.

In the next scene Zoller and Satterlund find out there is more to “falling” in love than they expected.  In the sixth scene, Zoller and Langton are a married couple at a skating rink, on the point of breaking up.  But wishing on a star brings an unexpected bonus.  In probably the most touching scene, Field returns to her old hometown to find her lost love but discovers Satterlund may no longer reside there.  But she has an answer now to the burning question he asked many years ago.  In scene eight, Zoller and Langton have been best friends for years but Fate has another relationship in mind for them.  And in the last scene, to tie up the story from the Prologue, Field returns to Zoller and proves how strong her Love for him is.

An evening well worth your time.  It’s a town that could have been created by fantasy writers, Ray Bradbury or Rod Serling, just this side of Glocamora and not far from Brigadoon, close to Neverland and just up from Shangra-la.  It only has one foot in Reality and its whole heart in the world of Make-believe.  Lyon has, wisely, chosen to create this world simply, allowing the actors and story to tell the tale.  It is full and insights and wonder and magic something, I believe, the world needs desperately now.

The actors are all first-rate and they have a look of 30’s/40’s film stars in my eyes.  Zoller has the bearing and looks of a Victor Mature; Satterlund, a slightly awkward Jimmy Stewart type; Field, possibly Jean Harlow; and Langton could be a Carole Lombard.  But they all are wonderful in their own right, too.  I especially admire Langton, as she is not only a fine actor and co-producer of this show but I’ve seen her as a dancer/choreographer, too, and she excels in those areas as well.  A “Jill” of all trades, I would say.

I recommend this production.  If you do choose to see it, please tell them Dennis sent you.

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