“Almost, Maine” sells out Porter
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Directed by Mitchell Thomas and written by John Cariani, the production introduces the stories of nine couples, showing the many facets of love from the delightfully awkward to the heart-breaking.
Jonathan D. Hicks ’04, did lighting and sound design and technical direction. The stage manager was third-year Christine Nathanson.
Porter Theater was dressed up for opening night, with lines of white lights fabricating a roof on the patio next to the box office. Hot apple cider was served as the sun went down and temperatures dropped. The cozy atmosphere was perfect preparation for the viewer’s entrance into frigid town of Almost, Maine, where the play is set.
Almost, Maine is a small town where “you know who you know and you don’t know who you don’t know.” The play bears witness to the dynamics of attraction between several individuals, each with connections to each other but also unique stories to be pursued.
These stories are pursued, but not necessarily concluded. Director Mitchell Thomas described the play as the exploration of all sorts of dimensions of love, and ending with uncertainty. He made no cuts to the script and had no agenda behind his portrayal of any of the relationships. He wished to express the existence of wonder and danger in the face of love.
Rehearsal time for this production was about seven weeks. There was an initial lack of male actors. Fortunately, the Westmont men who auditioned were strong in their work, but the company was still lacking.
To solve this problem, two local alumni stepped in: Nolan Hamlin, ‘12 and Chris Wagstaffe, ‘14. The production was in need of funny men, and these particula alumni embraced their roles.
The dynamics of the company this fall semester were described by Thomas as “quite young.” He said that last Spring, seven powerful members of the theatre department graduated, leaving new space behind them for a new generation.
Fortunately, though not deliberately, this space was filled with first, second, and third-years, as well as some transfers. In “Almost, Maine,” this new group of students have the opportunity to interact with each other on the stage in multiple ways, with actors playing multiple roles in various relationships throughout the narrative.
In the first act, first-year Anna Telfer plays a waitress, but in the second act she takes on the very different role of a young girl trying to find her place in the world. She is nearly unrecognizable from one character to the other, due to the hair she wears to clarify the difference and, more significantly, the choices she makes to change her persona.
The script is quite whimsical. Dillon Montag, a third-year transfer and actor in the play, commented, “The script has a certain mythical dynamic. Each scene contains an element that isn’t quite in touch with reality, and yet that element is very real to the characters and so is very real to the audience.”
Thomas said that he enjoyed working with such a script after coming out of a period of working with several dark pieces. The redemptive quality of the world of “Almost, Maine” was a nice change for Thomas and appropriate for the Christian audience at Westmont.
“Almost, Maine” is about a 90 minute production done in two acts. Almost, Maine will be playing Thursday, Nov. 20 through the 22 at 8 p.m., and there will be an additional matinee on the 22 at 2 p.m.