There’s a lot going on at Herb’s Store in Broad Harbor. Nobody’s really sure where that little town is, but folks who live there consider it be Down East somewheres.
Herb’s Store is where the action starts as Brent Hutchins’ two-act play “Closer to Home” opens. Composed of 17 scenes, the show that depicts the humorous side of life in Hancock and Washington counties is the latest theatrical offering by the Levi Stewart Community Theater based in Corinna.
The show is the 60th production presented by the group since its founding in 1982. The organization is named for a man who was born in Corinna, made millions elsewhere, but donated the library that bears his name to the town in 1898 as a cultural center. “Closer to Home” is performed in the second-floor auditorium.
Gary Dorman, who plays Junior, directs the cast of 23 with a loving hand. He and the cast, like Hutchins — a fourth-generation resident of Mount Desert Island and a carpenter by trade — succeed at portraying life in Down East Maine without lampooning its natives. The script is not as forgiving of “people from away,” but Friday night’s audience seemed to agree with Hutchins’ take on tourists, interlopers and new residents.
“I know a lot about some stuff, and I know a little bit about most everything, he said. “I’m what you call a Down East entrepreneur, which means I work for myself ’cause I ain’t fit to be employed.
“Of course there’s really no such thing as working for yourself, now is there? Not really. You’re always working for somebody. If you ain’t working for your boss, you’re working for your customer, and if you ain’t working for your customer, you’re working for your wife.”
Once Junior gets inside Herb’s Store, there’s talk about snowplowing and the Grange Suppah, town politics, clam digging and the proper inflection to use with the word “ayuh” to convey a variety of emotions. “Closer to Home” ends with a raucous town meeting with the Board of Selectmen on stage and the residents of Broad Harbor in the audience.
As with many community theater productions in Maine, “Closer to Home” is uneven. Some performances are excellent and others are weak. The timing is inconsistent and the set changes slow down the momentum.
The Levi Stewart Community Theater makes up for all those things with its spirit, which flows over the audience and embraces it like a warm summer breeze. All of the organization’s board members are either onstage or working in the house. The season’s program is full of advertisements for businesses in Corinna, Newport and Dexter, so the nonprofit has a lot of local support.
The fact that the company produces four shows a year makes it one of the most prolific community theater groups in Penobscot County. None of the groups in Greater Bangor currently mount that many productions a year.
On the other hand, none of them has a building comparable to the Levi Stewart Library, which the community is committed to maintaining.
Designed in the Italian Renaissance style, its clock tower rises several stories above a brick-and-granite structure and is a beacon in Corinna, a town of about 2,000 residents.
The clock tower and steeple were repaired a few years ago, and a new set of stairs and an elevator were added. For that effort, the library and the town were honored in 2017 by Maine Preservation.
In the near future, the community theater organization is planning to upgrade stage equipment, lights, sound and other components “to make the stage and auditorium more flexible and easier to use, while maintaining the historic nature of the facility,” a program note said.
The trip from Bangor to Corinna, just north of Newport, is less than 40 miles long. “Closer to Home,” along with the spirit and dedication of the Levi Stewart Community Theatre, make it well worth the trip.
Other productions this year include “Rock Around the Block” in late August, this season’s teen musical, and “Scrooge’s Christmas” in early December.
“Closer to Home” will be performed at 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday in the Jones Nutter Auditorium at the Stewart Library Building in Corinna. Tickets are $6 at the door.