Bea (Ashley Alvarez, left) and Blake (Dustin Tucker) discuss being from away and living in a small Maine town in Portland Stage's premiere of "Sweet Goats & Blueberry Senoritas." The play, written by Richard Blanco and Vanessa Garcia, is about Bea finds love and support in rural Maine, January 2023. Credit: Courtesy of That is No Umbrella Media, LLC

Portland Stage’s world premiere production, “Sweet Goats & Blueberry Senoritas,” is a heartwarming, sweet and funny play about the community people from away build with Maine natives and the joy and sorrow they share with each other.

It is a story about connection — the connections we can’t break no matter how much we want to and those that we cling to because they are our lifelines. It is a relevant and timely production because reconnecting after nearly three years of being six feet apart is proving difficult for some.

Written by Bethel resident Richard Blanco and playwright Vanessa Garcia, the production, directed by Sally Wood, is an awe-inspiring accomplishment that sent Saturday’s audience out of the theater thinking, laughing and sharing stories about their own experiences of settling in the Pine Tree State. It also gives theatergoers a glimpse into the playwrights’ Cuban culture.

Beatriz (Ashley Alvarez), who goes by Bea, is a first generation American who fled Miami’s Cuban community and her mother as a teenager for New England. She brought with her a gift for baking and has a shop in a rural Maine town where she serves Cuban coffee and pastries, including those in the title.

She is estranged from her mother, Marilyn (Jezabel Montero). Marilyn and brother, Tio Eme (JL Rey), were two of 14,000 Cuban children between the ages of 4 and 18 secretly brought to southern Florida between 1960 and 1962. Run by the U.S. State Department and Catholic Charities of Miami, its code name was Operation Peter Pan. It took Marilyn and Eme’s parents seven years to reunite with them in Miami.

In Maine, Bea shares her heritage with neighbors Georgette (Karen Ball) and Maynard (Kevin O’Leary), who are taking a romantic break from each other, and displaced southerner Blake (Dustin Tucker), who is baffled by his continued status as a person “from away.”

Tio Eme (JL Rey, left) hugs his niece Bea (Ashley Alvarez) during a visit to her Cuban bakery in the Portland Stage premiere of “Sweet Goats & Blueberry Senoritas.” The play, written by Richard Blanco and Vanessa Garcia, is about how Bea finds love and support in a small Maine town, January 2023. Credit: Courtesy of That is No Umbrella Media, LLC

When Tio Eme unexpectedly comes to visit and urges Bea to reconcile with her mother, the young woman realizes the importance of family — the one she was born into and the community that has embraced her in Maine.

One of the funniest moments in the show comes when Bea talks about her journey north. Her uncle challenges Bea about leaving her family behind in Miami when she was 16. “Plus it wasn’t just moving to Maine. Or did you forget how you got on a bus at 16 and ran away to God knows where,” Tio Eme says.

“New Hampshire,” she replies.

“Who runs away to New Hampshire!” he demands to know.

Now, that is a question many Maine residents have asked themselves.

Another iconic scene is when Blake discusses with Bea how long it takes before a person is considered a “Mainah.”

She tells Blake: “Just ‘cuz the cat has her kittens in the oven doesn’t doesn’t make them biscuits.”

“Why would you put kittens in the oven to begin with?! What does that even mean?” he replies. “Three generations in the ground before you’re considered a Mainer, we’re way off.”

Bea agrees that it will be a long, long time before either of them might be qualified to be referred to as Mainers. The characters resolve themselves to the inevitability that they will always be from away.

Every member of this cast is outstanding. During the rehearsal process, the actors were able to make suggestions to the writers, a rare collaboration, according to the program notes. This is a tight, close-knit ensemble that realistically portrays what it’s like to live in a small town.

Alvarez and Tucker light up the stage with their characters’ personalities and passion but Bea and Blake anchor the show in reality. The audience leaves feeling like they have just spent 90 minutes with their neighbors.

Rey’s Tio Eme is the heart of this production. After all that he went through as a child, Eme still is an optimist. His love for life is so beautifully portrayed it washes over the audience like a high tide.

The set design by Anita Stewart, Portland Stage’s artistic director, features cutouts of pine trees that ring the proscenium of the stage. That lets the audience feel as if they are watching a neighbor through the trees and adds to the production’s intimate feel. Costumes by Lily Prentice, lights by  SeifAllah Salotto-Christobal and a sound design by Seth Asa Sengel all compliment Stewart’s technical vision.

In essence, “Sweet Goats & Blueberry Senoritas” does for people from away what John Cariani’s “Almost Maine” did for native Mainers. The new production also is getting patrons back into the Forest Avenue theater. Saturday’s show was nearly sold out and that may be Blanco and Garcia’s greatest accomplishment.

“Sweet Goats & Blueberry Senoritas” will be performed live through Feb. 12 at Portland Stage, 25A Forest Ave., Portland. The play will be streamed on the theater company’s website from Feb. 8 through Feb. 26. For ticket information, visit or call 774-0465.