Welcome to Almost, Maine. A town that was never incorporated, so it’s just ‘Almost.’ A place where people almost get what they want. A place that’s almost exactly like Friday Harbor, minus its inland location.
With a background directing musicals in the California Bay Area, this is Hooper’s debut as a director at SJCT—but she hasn’t found too many directorial differences when it comes to straight-plays versus musicals.
“Characters are characters and stories are stories,” Hooper said. “The audience is going to recognize people. And I don’t mean the actors.”
There’s the awkwardness of first loves and the pain of love lost.
There’s instances of saying those fateful words too soon and not saying them soon enough.
There’s death, love at first sight, that moment you find out the one that got away has found someone else, and a cute waitress sure to cure any damaged heart.
You’ll visit the Moose Paddy where drinks are free if you’re sad, meet a tourist on a strange mission, and a repair man who is tactlessly romantic.
And that’s just in the first act.
The intimate seating in the Gubelman Theatre coincides perfectly with the most delicate of subjects ever to be broached; love.
Director Carol Hooper
The production is a series on nine plays within a play, with 17 actors playing 20 characters. The characters from the different scenes never interact on stage, but they know each other’s personal business from living in such a small town.
‘Almost’ is so far north it’s practically in Canada, and is known for its spectacular views of the Aurora Borealis. Much like lunacy when it comes to full moons—when the Northern Lights are at their peak in the sky, the characters are pushed to the edge of their emotions.
“I think people will really identify with a lot of the relationship issues,” said Deb Langhans, an actress in the play. “It’s surprising how something so absurd at times can also suggest depth.”
The play is a comedy, but explores the complex emotions associated with romantic relationships. Even if the specific situations don’t speak to audience member’s lives, the theme is universal.
The cast has developed relationships of its own in the weeks of rehearsal. One week prior to opening night and it’s a mix of nerves. Cast members offer their skills in makeup, hair, and even yoga as a pre-show warm up to their fellow actors.
“The people that you work with make it a rich experience,” said Scott Mapstead, another actor in the show.
On the technological side of things, nailing down the look of the Northern Lights has been the biggest challenge, Hooper said.
But the audience can expect to see the lights dance across the stage, in step with the actors portraying the dance of life.
— “Almost, Maine” will run Feb. 20-21 at 7:30 p.m. Feb. 22, 2 p.m. Feb. 26-28, 7:30 p.m. A sneak preview showing is offered Feb. 19, 7:30 p.m. for a discounted price. For full listing and admission prices visit www.sjctheatre.org.