- A rehearsal shot.
ARMSTRONG State University's Masquers student theatre troupe is ready to cool down the summer swelter with imagination, romance, and a little bit of magic. Boasting a big heart and plenty of relatable wit, Almost, Maine will provide a welcome kind of warmth to folks of all ages.
John Cariani’s acclaimed play premiered at Portland Stage Company in Portland, Maine in 2004, breaking box office records and garnering critical praise. From there, it opened Off-Broadway at Daryl Roth Theatre in 2006.
The production glides through ten short scenes: “Her Heart,” “Sad & Glad,” “Getting It Back,” “Seeing the Thing,” “Story of Hope,” “Where It Went,” “This Hurts,” “They Fell,” “Epilogue,” “Prologue,” and “Interlogue.”
“It’s not a linear narrative,” director and professor Pam Sears explains. “They are all different characters in different vignettes. The different characters make reference to one another, and they know each other—they inhabit the same town—but the different characters don’t appear in other scenes.”
The set opens in the fictional town of Almost, Maine—a place so far north, it’s almost not in the United States, almost in Canada, and almost nonexistent.
“In the playwright’s mind, it was a compilation of several real towns in northern Maine,” says Sears.
“It’s not on the coast, so it also challenges us in the sense that there are some stereotypes. When you think of Maine, you think of the coast, and lobster men, and a certain dialect—and that isn’t what this play is. This town is not where you inspired that stereotype. It requires you to look deeper, past those stereotypes, to these folks who are very intelligent and grounded, not cutesy.”
While it’s often billed as a romantic comedy, Sears says Almost, Maine is much more realistic than the typical cheesy, happily-ever-after, tied-up-in-a-neat-bow Hollywood narratives associated with the genre.
“It’s got its share of awkward moments,” she says. “These characters are very relatable: they’re not showy or polished. They’re completely the opposite of that! If anyone has ever been on an awkward first date, or an awkward 25th date, they have sort of had similar experiences with characters in the play. It’s romantic, but it’s full of laughs as well.”
The stellar cast is comprised of Joshua Lewis, Gabrielle Hortman, Bobbie Renee Stringer, JoJo Ward, Jasmine Dias, Johnathan Saxon, Whitney Byrd, Meagan Dyer, Gabrielle Hortman, Harris Cutcher, John Nash—all current Armstrong undergraduate students or recent graduates.
“What’s great about this play is that the vignettes offer great depth to characterization, and you get to the depths of the character rather quickly,” says Sears. “As opposed to the typical two-hour linear storyline, you get to the crux of the relationship within ten, fifteen minutes.”
Plus, a sprinkling of magical realism makes the experience all the more surreal—“almost magical, or mystical, occurrences,” Sears calls them, sneak in to take the characters and audience by surprise.
With evening and matinee performances, multiple generations can sit and enjoy Almost, Maine’s chilly quirks.
“This is a good opportunity for people in suffering from the heat to go to northern Maine where it’s snowy and cold!” Sears laughs. “It will cool you off in your imagination.”