Globe Editorial

Snobbery: Almost, New York

A couple spends a romantic night outdoors in a scene from Almost, Maine. A couple spends a romantic night outdoors in a scene from Almost, Maine. (Craig Bailey/Perspective)
December 25, 2010

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The play called “Almost, Maine’’ has been produced almost 600 times and has been warmly received in places as varied as Australia and South Korea. Set in a Maine town similar to Presque Isle, where its author, John Cariani, grew up, it’s been popular in New England and almost every other sector of the country — but a legendary flop in its one Off Broadway production in New York.

But when The New York Times surveyed the local theater community for explanations for the disparity in reaction, Manhattan producers weren’t about to turn their analytical energy on their own audiences; rather, they sought to explain what was different about audiences outside New York. “The theater was filled with people who drive big American cars and were wearing embroidered sweaters with moose and other animals,’’ explained Jack Thomas, the show’s original Off Broadway producer, referring to a production he attended in Fort Myers, Fla. “They loved it.’’

Thomas may be right. There may well be a taste gap between those who like colorful sweaters and those who prefer Botox and designer eyewear. But while mild contempt for outside audiences may be an acceptable pose for theater producers in the Big Apple, it might make the people of, say, Fort Myers less enthusiastic about the next show that comes to town.