As ivory-tinkling straight man McMoon, McGarrahan is almost as funny — and as touching — as Barrett. Whether chatting up the audience from behind owlish glasses and a supper-club grand or back in the moment with his enthused collaborator, he conveys the struggle of a second-rater uninsulated by self-delusion. McGarrahan also repeatedly employs, to comic advantage, a facial expression that makes you think of that meandering, menacing voice as a sort of stun gun.
Veloudos’s production, artful if hardly subtle, misses neither the insanity nor the valor in Foster Jenkins’s story, which unfolds here against a plaster-and-gilt frame by set designer Skip Curtis that does suggest a Ritz-Carlton (where Pennsylvania heiress Foster Jenkins lived — and rehearsed — while in New York). And David Costa-Cabral’s costumes for the diva, from matron wear with looped pearls to angel wings with loopy accouterments, are appropriately opulent. As for the play’s title, it refers to Foster Jenkins’s memory of her Carnegie Hall appearance, which no diminution of glory or sudden intrusion of doubt can chisel away. But Souvenir is more than a keepsake. If you’ve got the performers to pull it off, and the Lyric does, it’s a keeper.
ALMOST, MAINE: Eccentric and delicate, slapstick and sweet.
As its title implies, Almost, Maine is not a precise dramatic location. Our Town is the address of the eternal verities. Greater Tuna is where a couple of guys play multiple roles in a lampoon of small-town redneck life. Maine native John Cariani’s whimsical 2004 theater work, which is receiving a sparkly area premiere by SpeakEasy Stage Company (at the Calderwood Pavilion through March 10), occupies a snowy somewhere in between, with four actors taking on 19 roles in multiple vignettes. It’s 9 pm on a midwinter evening in the remote burg of the title, and a number of folks are connecting — and disconnecting — in the frosty night. Among the odd couples are Gabriel García Márquez and Shakespeare’s Puck, who come together in a prologue/epilogue in which a would-be cuddler named Ginette is informed by taciturn boyfriend Pete that, the earth being as spherical as a snowball, the farther one goes from one’s love the closer one gets. Whereupon Ginette puts a girdle round about the earth in two hours, rejoining her flap-capped male Penelope from the other direction. You can feel her coming before she reappears, but in the meantime eight separate, quirky stories get told.
If Almost, Maine is predictable, it distinguishes itself by a strangely affecting combination of eccentric and delicate, slapstick and sweet. Cariani speaks of the “ache” induced in rural high latitudes, where big sky and big weather can dwarf human interactions. But he wants to have his ache and eat it too, in a work that springs from deep wells of loneliness but burbles with punning monikers and other cheap tricks. For example, a sketch about a working-class married couple trying to rekindle a spark hinges on a shoe dropped from the sky. Other oddities, if non-naturalistic, seem more integrated: a daffy young woman shows up in an Almost backyard bearing her broken heart in a bag. Indeed, bags are big in Cariani’s paean to romance lost and found in the upper recesses of the Pine Tree State: another character arrives at her long-time companion’s lair bearing big, puffy laundry satchels full of “all the love” he ever gave her.
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