Heidelberg University is to stage "Almost, Maine" 8 p.m. today through Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday in Gundlach Theatre on campus. The play is a collection of vignettes in which 19 characters must make crucial choices in their relationships with one another.
The stage is covered with "snow" and a black backdrop sparkles with stars and glows with the northern lights as nine scenes occur in locations around the mythical town of Almost, Maine. The title of each skit is projected onto the screen with the names of the characters and a short description. Guitar music introduces the play and fills in during breaks between scenes as the snow is rearranged and set pieces are placed and removed.
The playwright takes many liberties with mystery and reality, stereotypes and cliches to impart an array of emotions. Some of the skits include literal interpretations of expressions such as "fall in love," "wait for the other shoe to drop," "lost hope" and "broken heart." The characters names range from the unusual to normal names with special meanings. Each anecdote has an element of the unexpected.
A short prologue introduces Lukas Frey and Marina Richley as Pete and Ginette. They sit apart on a bench looking at the stars. Although they profess love for one another, a sense of distance exists, to be resolved later in the play.
"HerHeart" concerns Glory and East, portrayed by Leigh Barthel and Jordan Keller. An outsider, Glory has come a distance to see the aurora borealis and make peace with the man who left her. She asks to spend the night watching the sky in the yard at East's house. East doesn't know what to say, especially when he learns what is in the small bag she is carrying.
"SadandGlad" takes place at a local watering hole where a downcast Jimmy bumps into an ex-lover, Sandrine. Adam Hoover and Amanda Chaney are cast as the estranged couple and Chaylene Ehrman is the conscientious waitress. Jimmy keeps repeating himself but doesn't seem to listen to what Sandrine is trying to tell him - she is getting married the next day to someone else. But the real surprise lies in Jimmy's tattoo.
"ThisHurts" happens on a Friday night in a laundry room at a boarding house. A.J. Lacefield and Sarah Bolen play Steve and Marvalyn, who live in separate units. As the clothes are washed and dried, the two strike up a conversation about physical and emotional pain. Sarah tries to explain how love can be wonderful as well as hurtful to Steve, who says he is unfamiliar with love.
"GettingitBack" centers on the relationship between Lendall and Gayle. Justin Suddeth and Hannah Crocker take the roles of the couple who have reached a critical point. Gayle "wakes" Lendall from the easy chair in his apartment to return several large, red bags of "love" he has given her. She believes they are splitting up, so she also asks to get her "stuff" back from him, as well. Gayle gets a shock when Lendall presents her with a tiny red bag.
"TheyFell" features Chad and Randy, two good friends acted by Ben Kirk and Alex Koenig, respectively. They sit outdoors in a snowy field bemoaning their romantic failures and drinking beer. While trying to decide who is the most unlucky at love, Chad reaches a discovery that makes them both uncomfortable yet seems right.
"WhereitWent," another outdoor scene, takes place between Elizabeth Rhode and Kyle Adam as Marci and Phil. They have been ice skating on the pond where they first kissed, an event Phil does not remember. When a disappointed Marci can't find her boot, Phil realizes something also is missing from their long-term relationship.
"StoryofHope" concerns another couple, Hope and Danny, portrayed by Katelyn Hough and Nathaniel Wooden. Hope has been away from Almost for an undisclosed number of years. Something has compelled her to return to see Danny and answer a question he asked before she left. The man who appears at Danny's door is unfamiliar to Hope until one of his remarks reveals his identity.
"SeeingtheThing" happens at the home of Rhonda, a tomboy type played by Melissa Tippin. Mackenzie "Mac" Wallace is Dave, her outdoor buddy who would like to be more than a friend. The audience hears their snowmobiles before they enter, chatting about the run they just had. When Dave gives Rhonda a gift, she cannot understand why, nor can she see what it is. An impulsive kiss opens her eyes.
As the play draws to its conclusion, Ginette and Pete reappear and embrace as the action comes "full circle," just as the northern lights reappear to light each winter.
Chris Tucci is directing the production. The crew includes Cory Zech, Joshn Olewiler and Drew Fons.