ALAMEDA -- If you are one of those people who feel that too few romantic stories are written these days, you should love the eight short stories titled, "Almost, Maine," currently playing at the Altarena Playhouse.

Two multi-changing actresses (Emily Garcia and Donna Turner) and two careful actors (Stewart Lyle and Steve Rhyne) perform scenes of alternating humor and seriousness about love lost and love found. Each scene is completed with a surprise ending.

All takes place at 9 p.m. in a snowy, fictional town near Canada where occasionally the Northern Lights play.

Little scenery is used other than a bench and the front of a house.

Following a temperature setting prologue shivered by Steve Rhyne, a weary looking Emily Garcia, as Glory, enters carrying a bright red suitcase. East, played by Stewart Lyle, comes out of the house to ask her why she is there. Glory offers several answers that increasingly interest and/or puzzle the bathrobed man. Glory clearly plans to stay. She must see the Aurora Borealis for her deceased husband's sake.

In another scene, Donna Turner, playing Marvalyn, opens up an ironing board to complete her laundry in spite of the late hour. Steve Rhyne, playing Steve, sits on a bench nearby. When Marvalyn is through, she folds up her ironing board and turns around. The board savagely hits Steve, knocking him off the bench. Steve assures Marvalyn that he is not hurt.


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"See? No blood. No discoloration," he says.

He continues telling her why he cannot be hurt. But, of course, he can. So can Marvalyn.

Later, two country boys in another scene happily chat and smash their emptied beer cans. Gradually, they realize their growing sexual interest in one another and begin to move close and closer. They never make it because of a major beer-enhanced problem.

A hardworking married couple played by Emily Garcia and Stewart Lyle have been ice skating. They are very tired. She wants to go home; he does not. One problem: She has lost one of her shoes. Her husband says not to bother about it, let's skate. Eventually, after much argument, the missing shoe suddenly appears, settling the argument.

Stewart Lyle, playing Dave, clears loves Rhoda (Donna Turner). Rather than talk about it, Dave has long been trying to keep his mind on other things -- such as a night school art class. He presents Rhoda with one of his paintings which she studies, but absolutely cannot understand. Once Dave and Rhoda begin to take off most of their winter clothing, understanding dawns. The audience and the two lovers realize what the painting is all about.

IF YOU GO
What: "Almost, Maine"
Where: Altarena Playhouse, 1409 High St., Alameda
When: 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays; 2 p.m. Sundays, Friday through April 13
Tickets: $21 to $24
Information: 510-523-14553 or www.altarena.org