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A rom-com for everyone: ‘Almost Maine’

| Wednesday, February 11, 2015

AlmostMaine_WEBEMILY DANAHER | The Observer

Valentine’s Day is Saturday and that means Netflix is recommending all sorts of romantic comedies. But before you spend your Thursday and Friday curled up watching Netflix, consider heading out to see the Student Players’ most recent production, “Almost Maine.”

“Almost Maine” is a play by John Cariani based around a series of nine vignettes. Each scene, which is about five minutes long, takes place in the no man’s land, not-quite-a-town place of Almost, Maine (don’t worry, they’ll explain what that means), in the moments leading up to the appearance of the Northern Lights.

If you’ve seen “Valentine’s Day,” “New Year’s Eve” or “He’s Just Not That Into You,” the play runs on a similar concept.

Sophomore Tommy Favorite, who is playing East, Steve and Daniel, gave some insight into the genre.

“I refer it to as an all-encompassing romantic comedy because when you see romantic comedies, they all end different ways,” Favorite said. “You have ones that end really happy and everything works out; you have ones really bad; you have ones that are really sad the whole time, and you have a little glimmer at the end.”

The play is the first full production of the year for the Student Players, who put on “Rage for the Stage” in the fall and produced “Inherit the Wind” last spring.

Director Paul Kuczynski, a senior, chose to do the play after he was introduced to it last spring by one of his friends. She proposed that they could work as a pair to produce and have it finished in two weeks; however, it didn’t quite turn out that way.

Auditions for the play were in October, and rehearsals have been running since then. Still, Kuczynski said his actors continue to surprise him.

“Sometimes you go through these scenes dozens upon dozens of times, and all of a sudden there’s a moment in there and it just completely surprises me,” Kuczynski said. “It’s so fresh.”

Kuczynski’s enthusiasm for the production is clear from his directing style, which has him watching the actors rehearse, running around the Lab Theater excitedly to ensure that the best view is available from every angle.

The key challenge to this play is that almost every actor is playing two to three parts, and each character is only on stage for a couple of minutes. That’s not a lot of time for character development, and it means each character needs to be distinct and fully developed in the actor’s mind.

Playing characters Sandrine and Hope, senior Elizabeth Leader described what it feels like to nail a scene.

“Within a scene, when running through it, sometimes there will be this moment where everything just clicks, where the fact that you’re in a scene, and you’re acting just falls away, and you’re just there,” Leader said. “You act without acting. Coming to the end of the scene and suddenly realizing that that happened is just so incredibly exhilarating.”

It was clear that this was still the goal Kuczynski had for his actors as they rehearsed Monday night. When junior Emma Fleming, playing Gayle and Glory, reached that clicking point in the scene “Getting It Back,” he exclaimed excitedly at the end of her speech, “You went there!” and asked her to channel that moment for the rest of the scene.

The play itself is peculiarly appropriate for this time of year. Though none of the scenes directly relate to one another, they all center around the same theme: love.

“There’s nine different stories that we’re working with and they all land in a different place,” Favorite said. “They’re all really different and really creative, but they’re all tapping into something that ties in together really well. Love is a really complicated feeling, and what I think the show does the best is try to touch a little bit on everything that love can have you experience.”

That doesn’t mean that all the stories are happy. Some of the scenes could be pulled straight from your favorite, feel-good romantic comedies, but others won’t give you an easy happy ending.

“I think everyone could like the show,” Fleming said. “No one could sit through this and go, ‘Hmmm … it wasn’t that good.’ You can relate to one of these characters, at least one. It’s light, but it’s also deep at the same time.”

If you’re on the fence about seeing the show, the cast says that there’s no way you could leave without loving it.

“If you’re absolutely in love with the idea of love, believe in romance, true love, all that, we’ve got scenes for you,” Leader said. “If you basically plan on wearing solid black on Valentine’s Day and live a life of gagging at any cutesy-coupley things you see, we’ve got scenes that will appeal to you as well. This is a show that showcases the full spectrum of romantic experiences, falling into and out of love, missed connections, almost connections.”

“Almost Maine” is playing Thursday and Friday at 7:30 p.m. and Saturday at 4 p.m. in the Washington Hall Lab Theater. Tickets are $5 and can be purchased at the LaFortune Student Center box office or at the door.

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About Caelin Miltko

I am a senior English and Irish language major, with a minor in Journalism. I spent the last year abroad in Dublin, Ireland and am currently a Walsh RA living in Pangborn.

Contact Caelin