October 31, 2010

Almost there

By Bob Keyes bkeyes@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

(Continued from page 1)

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Mike Houston, left, as Guy, David Mason as Nat and Kathy McCafferty as Lurenerehearse a scene from “Last Gas.”

Kevin Brusie photo

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John Cariani discusses his play, “Last Gas,” with director Sally Wood, left, and actress Kathy McCafferty as they shape it before its premiere this week at Portland Stage Company.

Gordon Chibroski/Staff Photographer

Additional Photos Below



WHERE: Portland Stage Company, 25A Forest Ave.

WHEN: Previews at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday to Thursday; opens at 7:30 p.m. Friday. Continues through Nov. 21 at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday to Friday, 4 and 8 p.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday, plus 7:30 p.m. Nov. 16 and 2 p.m. Nov. 18

TICKETS: $14 to $37, 774-0465, www.portlandstage.org


Stars Tom Bloom, Moira Driscoll, Mike Houston, David Mason, Kathy McCafferty and David Register. Directed by Sally Wood. Set design by Anita Stewart. Lighting by Gregg Carville. Composed by Julian Fleisher. Sound by Shannon Zura. Choreography by Maggie Jo Saylor. Stage manager, Shane Van Vliett.

McCafferty has acted in three productions of "Almost, Maine," including one in upstate New York that Cariani directed. She learned a lot about Cariani's sensibilities as a playwright and director when he gave her a note after an "Almost, Maine" rehearsal that said, "I want you to be an elastic. I want you to go up, and I want you to go down within seconds."

She fell in love with "Last Gas" the moment she read it. To her, the play is about love and the power of hope. "It's so easy to let hope die, because you have to get on with life," she said.

Cariani agrees that his play is about hope, but adds a caveat: "It's also a lot about broken hope. It's a story about a guy who is sad, and who might also be depressed, though he hasn't been treated for it."

Nat is at a point in his life, somewhere north of 30, where he has come to terms with the fact that he has let opportunities pass. He never went to college and never signed up for self-discipline training. Now, when it's almost too late, he realizes his past is defining his present.

Cariani, 41, has great affection for Presque Isle. He grew up there and made his home there for many years. He is not one of those people who felt he had to leave Presque Isle or Maine to improve his life.

It's true that he did leave Maine, and has made his life in New York -- and made a good life, too, appearing on TV and in movies, even garnering a Tony Award nomination for the acting job he turned in for "Fiddler on the Roof." He recently filmed a movie with Ed Asner, and you can find him on "Law & Order" reruns regularly.

But he comes home often, and centers his best work on the people and places he knows from his youth. He likes to set his plays in Maine because he wants people from New York to recognize that they are not at the center of the universe, as they sometimes believe.

When he goes to the theater in New York, he rarely sees people he knows in the characters on stage. His goal is to write plays that people from Maine or anywhere else in rural or suburban America will recognize and find relatable.

"Intelligent people live in northern Maine, and people do not have to go away from Maine to do what they want to do," he said. "Sometimes they do leave, yes. But leaving Maine does not make you better. Just because you live in a city, that doesn't make you better or smarter."

Portland theater artist Sally Wood is directing "Last Gas." This is the fourth play she has directed for Portland Stage, following "Doubt," "The Gin Game" and "The Drawer Boy."

She met Cariani at the Little Festival of the Unexpected two years ago, when "Last Gas" received its first reading. She knew right away that she wanted to be involved when the show moved to the main stage.

"He is so bright, he is luminous," Wood said. "Being around John is like capturing fireflies."

His writing sparkles because of its honesty and integrity, Wood said. As director, her goal is to create an environment for the actors that supports them emotionally and otherwise, so they can find the true characteristics of the people they portray on stage.

These people are flawed, she said. Their toils are real. Their hurts are tangible.


Staff Writer Bob Keyes can be contacted at 791-6457 or at:



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Additional Photos

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John Cariani listens to a reading of his new play, “Last Gas,” at Portland Stage Company. The playwright has rewritten parts of the play throughout three weeks of rehearsals, and last week, the actors tried several endings to see what worked best.

Gordon Chibroski/Staff Photographer


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