El Estoque

Review: ‘Almost, Maine’ a heartwarming show

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Review: ‘Almost, Maine’ a heartwarming show

Anjali Bhat

With powdery snowflakes, a minor fumble and sentimental kisses, this rendition of the modern play is as endearing as the innocent romances it portrays.

Two figurines kiss under a glowing, snow-dusted tree in sophomore Michaela Murphy’s miniature representation of the fictional town of Almost. ‘Almost, Maine’ features nineteen characters in nine different vignettes, who in wandering through a snowy, mystical place, find themselves kissing — or crying over — people they love. Photo by Anjali Bhat.

Two figurines kiss under a glowing, snow-dusted tree in sophomore Michaela Murphy’s miniature representation of the fictional town of Almost. ‘Almost, Maine’ features nineteen characters in nine different vignettes, who in wandering through a snowy, mystical place, find themselves kissing — or crying over — people they love. Photo by Anjali Bhat.

 

Though it has been just a little more than a week into November, Drama students are already beginning to spread holiday magic with their latest production, the romantic comedy written by John Cariani titled “Almost, Maine.” The contemporary play is set in the snowy town of Almost, where — under the breathtaking northern lights — residents and visitors alike find themselves falling in and out of love, often in unexpected ways.

On the night of the show’s premiere, Friday, Nov. 8, playgoers entered a cheerfully wintery ambience as soon as they set foot into the theater. Sophomore Michaela Murphy’s diorama of Almost  in the auditorium lobby received much attention as a crowd formed in front of a wall of red stockings, snowflakes and photographs of the cast. 

Once seated inside, the audience listened to a playlist of love songs before Murphy greeted the house as the host of Almost’s local radio station, reminding audience members to take cover “in case of a sudden blizzard” and telling them to enjoy the show.

The play begins with a scene that is also the only one to become a recurring feature. Senior Alexander Pieb brilliantly portrayed Pete, a shy, awkward man who is hesitant to admit his love for the equally bashful Ginette, played by freshman and first-time mainstage actress Christina Schuler. Following a brief misunderstanding, the two characters spend the rest of the night finding their way back to each other. Members of the audience were audibly rooting for the two as they are shown navigating the confusing world of love.

The audience was delighted with sophomore Jonathan Thompson’s performance in “Sad and Glad” with junior Cathy Ma and sophomore Osher Fein, as well as “This Hurts” with senior Maria Kosta. The more humorous vignettes flowed smoothly except for one small blunder. When receiving applause and laughter after delivering particularly funny lines, actors often had to suppress smiles of their own, momentarily breaking the imaginary “fourth wall” which separates the actors from the audience. While perhaps not their most professional performances, the scenes were nonetheless charming and all actors were undoubtedly hilarious.

Interwoven throughout the vignettes were performances by the play’s “choir,” a group of girls dressed in all white, like angels. Fein, sophomores Emaan Khan and Fatima Mejia, and juniors Corena Lentz and Nayanika Raj harmonized as they set themes for the vignettes through music. The choir performed a touching version of Mary Lambert’s “She Keeps Me Warm” — a song about same-sex love — after “They Fell,” in which Chad and Randy (played by Pieb and sophomore TJ Tarshis, respectively) discover they are more than just friends.

In "Getting It Back" Lendall (Pieb) sits perplexedly on the couch as his long-time girlfriend Gayle (sophomore Alexis Standridge) demands that he return all the love she ever gave to him. In ‘Almost, Maine,’ intangible emotions are represented literally, as seen here with love being quantified as multiple heavy bags on the couch. Photo used with permission of Kaavya Sundar.

In “Getting It Back” Lendall (Pieb) sits perplexedly on the couch as his long-time girlfriend Gayle (sophomore Alexis Standridge) demands that he return all the love she ever gave to him. In ‘Almost, Maine,’ intangible emotions are represented literally, as seen here with love being quantified as multiple heavy bags on the couch. Photo used with permission of Kaavya Sundar.

Though a romantic comedy in its entirety, “Almost, Maine” also features stories of bitter heartbreak, including those of a woman mourning a loved one’s death and of a married couple on the brink of divorce. Because teenage actors portrayed adult characters, these scenes were not altogether believable. Their tears, however, still evoked sadness, and the stage could transform from a cheerful, white Christmas to a eerily cold winter landscape with just the actors’ facial expressions and dramatic lighting.

Rendering Almost’s swirling green and blue northern lights might have been a challenge for professional light designer Kit Wilder and stage manager senior Simone Becker, but these lights added to the visual appeal of the stage. With only large, white entryways to serve as doors, mismatched chairs and a bench for furniture, the rest of the set was simple.

But the show demonstrates that love is anything but simple, and the play ends on “Seeing the Thing,” a tale about the embarrassment behind first kisses and first love. The fictional town of Almost — which is so far north that it is almost at the North Pole — may have weather that is several degrees below freezing, but the work of the cast and crew made the show as lovably warm as the characters’ multiple cups of cocoa.  

 

 

Dave (Tarshis) asks the tough and saucy Rhonda (junior Aditi Soin) to set a canvas on a chair and figure out what he painted especially for her. This vignette, called “Seeing the Thing” explores what it means to love both oneself and a friend. Photo used with permission of Kaavya Sundar.

Dave (Tarshis) asks the tough and saucy Rhonda (junior Aditi Soin) to set a canvas on a chair and figure out what he painted especially for her. This vignette, called “Seeing the Thing” explores what it means to love both oneself and a friend. Photo used with permission of Kaavya Sundar.

 

Buy tickets to watch “Almost, Maine” next weekend on Nov. 15 and 16 at 7 p.m. Tickets are $10 to $12 on seatyourself.biz/montavista and $12 to $14 at the door.