ALMOST, MAINE Opens Fall Season at Peninsula Players Theatre
On a moonless night, the residents of a remote, mythical town find themselves falling in and out of love in unexpected and often hilarious ways in the charming, offbeat comedy "Almost, Maine" by John Cariani. "Almost, Maine" is the final play of the 2017 season at Peninsula Players and launches the theater into its fall season September 6 through October 15. While the northern lights dance overhead, the not-so-tough women and men crack some beer and try to make sense of love.
"It is about people dealing with one of the scariest things in the world to deal with, and that is love," Cariani said in an interview with Syracuse Stage. "Almost, Maine" is a series of 10 loosely intertwined vignettes about love and loss featuring 19 characters played by four actors.
"It's a little different in that, while it tells a full story, it does so through visits to different couples in different parts of town at around nine on a Friday evening," said Patrick New, the director of "Almost, Maine" and veteran Peninsula Players actor. "All of these couples are experiencing a magical moment, some happy, some not, but a moment just the same. They are at a crucial precipice and 'almost' to what's next."
New ("Is He Dead?," "Proof," "Around the World in 80 Days," "Red Herring") makes his directorial debut at Peninsula Players with "Almost, Maine." His directing credits include the world première of "Fooling Buddha" at First Folio Theatre, the American première of "The December Man" for the Mary Arrchie Theatre, "The Little Prince" at Clarence Brown Theatre, "Hellcab" with Famous Door Theatre, "As You Like It" and "Theatre of Film Noir" with the Folio Theatre Company.
"I'm certain that everybody who sees this play will have some element in their lives that is an 'almost,'" New said. "We all live with 'almost' every day. I hope the show will encourage each audience member to ruminate on where they might have an 'almost' and perhaps feel the same magical push that will take them to what's next."
The characters of mythical Almost are ordinary, hard-working people who take time to speculate and wonder about things, and their thoughts and opinions are spoken honestly from the heart. Life may seem slower and unpretentious in a rural community, but in reality, life everywhere is knotty and convoluted and the residents of Almost echo those complexities.
"Yes, the stories are about love, but they are also about mystical things happening," Cariani said in an interview with Syracuse Stage. Cariani was born and raised in rural Maine and dedicates "Almost, Maine" to the people who live there. "We've always felt a little bit remote, a little bit removed. Maine itself is pretty removed from the rest of the country. It is the most eastern state. It is attached to only one state. There (are) so few people and so much nature. My little town and then nothing for miles, just darkness."
"Almost, Maine" has been performed in more than 20 countries and translated into more than a dozen languages, including Spanish, French, German, Hungarian, Romanian, Russian, Finnish, Dutch, Flemish, Gujarati (India) and Korean.
"I am romantic," Carani said in a 2016 interview with Playbill. "My plays are romantic. Any actor in any of my plays should be a romantic because the characters in "Almost, Maine" are romantics. They are people who are on the verge of happiness-but they're terrified everything is going to go to hell at any second!"
"Almost, Maine" grew out of monologues and performance pieces Carani wrote to showcase himself. "...it was hard to find great contemporary material we could sink our teeth into," he said. "I love plots that all make sense. I do think that that's the art of play-writing: plot. Great plots make magic. A plot that constantly moves forward and constantly surprises: magic. And action that keeps audiences wanting more: magic.
The four actors include Peninsula Players veterans who have several seasons and productions on their list of credits. The cast consists of Erica Elam ("The Actuary," "The 39 Steps," "The Hollow");Joe Foust ("The 39 Steps," "Miracle on South Division Street," "Making God Laugh"), Matt Holzfeind ("Lord Arthur Savile's Crime," "The Hollow," "Lend Me a Tenor") and Karen Janes Woditsch ("Always...Patsy Cline," "A Few Good Men," "Over the Tavern.")
These gifted actors also have film and television credits as well as several regional and Chicago-area stage credits which include productions at Writers Theatre, Steppenwolf Theatre, Goodman Theatre, Chicago Shakespeare Theatre and more.
Elam recently toured Australia with the critically-acclaimed musical improvisation group Baby Wants Candy and teaches improvisation and acting at Second City in Chicago.
Foust has portrayed Jacob Marley for several seasons in the Goodman Theatre's production of "A Christmas Carol" and his television credits include "Parks and Recreation," "Normal" and "Early Edition."
Holzfeind regional credits include Utah Shakespeare Festival, Indiana Repertory Theatre, New Theatre near Kansas City and performing in "The Three Faces of Dr. Crippen" with Strange Tree Group at the New York International Fringe Festival.
Woditsch is the recipient of an After Dark Award and has been twice nominated for Joseph Jefferson Awards and recently portrayed Veta Simmons in "Harvey" at Court Theatre. Her film credits include "Bad Johnson" and "American Fable."
The creative team crafting the rural, northwoods setting for "Almost, Maine" includes scenic designer J Branson, ("Nunsense," "The 39 Steps," "Always...Patsy Cline"); lighting designerMichael R. Trudeau makes his Peninsula Players design debut; costume designer Kyle Pingel("Nunsense"); Sound Designer Megan Henninger ("The Bridges of Madison County," "The Full Monty") and properties designer Pauline Oleksy ("Lord Arthur Savile's Crime," "Alabama Story").
"Almost, Maine" is sponsored by Door County Medical Center, Ken Raupach and John & Dyan Smith.
"Almost, Maine" performs Tuesdays through Sundays at 7:00 p.m., except for Sundays September 17, October 1 and 15 at 3:00 p.m. The theater and its offices are closed on Mondays. Discount tickets are available for groups of 15 or more. Individual ticket prices range from $38 to $44. For more information or to reserve tickets phone the Peninsula Players Box Office Tuesday throughSunday at 920-868-3287 or visit the website at www.peninsulaplayers.com.