By Jordan Connor, Assistant Editor
Have you ever been in love or lost love? Fallen in love? Given love or received love? Waited too long for love? Thought you were unworthy of love? Been hurt by love or been healed by love?
Yes? Then join the throngs of loving and loved hearts from here to the barren snowy plains of Almost, Maine.
On Feb. 20-23, the West Liberty Hilltop Players presented a student-directed production of John Cariani’s Almost, Maine.”
“Almost, Maine” is a play composed of a series of vignettes portraying the different ways love is manifested in the lives of the residents of a place far north in Maine that never got around to legally becoming a real town. For that reason, the setting of this play is affectionately thought of as “almost” an established town in Maine.
This two-act play consisted of ten different scenes that all touched humorously, but realistically upon the common theme of love.
In general, each scene featured a couple.
Some couples were meeting for the first time, others were reconsidering after many years together, several dealt with the reality of losing or missing the chance to love and be loved.
This production of “Almost, Maine” was unique because it was directed by two theater students.
Act One was directed by Maura Reiff, a junior theatre major. Act Two was directed by Jaccob Trifonoff, who has spent several years contributing to various Hilltop Players productions.
The job that Reiff and Trifonoff did in coordinating their directing efforts was commendable.
I couldn’t detect any director-related differences between the two acts which means that they were able to work together to seamlessly present the play as a whole.
And I must say, I thoroughly enjoyed this play from the moment I walked into the theatre until the final bow.
Even though, by nature, a plot composed of unrelated but parallel scenes and directed by multiple people should have some incongruences, the styling of the play and the theme held it together securely.
The actors’ performances were, on the majority, convincing, and all roles were played with an energetic and amusing vigor.
I will admit, though, it was a little bit confusing to have actors playing different characters in every scene.
I had to keep reminding myself that although I had seen the actors on stage before, they were now in different roles.
Overall, Kacie Craig stole my attention and approval with consistent, appropriately snarky delivery of characters that felt like some real people I know.
Maggie P. Dillon presented a commendable performance, appearing in three of the ten scenes. She was the only actress with whom I didn’t need a constant reminder that she was playing a new character because she made it completely obvious to the audience who she was in each scene.
The set, though simple, was charming and pretty. But what really elevated the feeling of the set was the lighting. Spencer Thomas did a wonderful job setting the mood with stage lighting that felt illuminating, but unobtrusive into the inner romantic lives of the characters.
Often throughout the play, the actors referenced the large Maine night sky that danced with northern lights and displayed brilliant stars. It was lovely to actually see the “night sky” recreated in the backdrop.
I think that “Almost, Maine” was a fabulous, entertaining, poignant, and hysterical romantic comedy.
In addition to being touched by the realities of love that were portrayed, I also found myself laughing out loud during multiple scenes.
My absolute favorite funniest moment came in a scene between two buddies, played convincingly by Brady Dunn and Chad Arthur. In the scene, the two friends are tired of dating girls just for the sake of dating. Brady’s character eventually tries to walk in the opposite direction from his buddy, but instead hits the floor like a sack of bricks. He scrambles to get up but finds he can’t get his balance for more than a second, and can’t step back towards his friend without hitting the ground again- all because he’s “fallen in love” with his closest friend. The literal interpretation of this love cliché had me guffawing.
“Almost, Maine” was well produced, directed, cast, designed, and performed. Honestly, if you didn’t get to see it, you really missed out on an entertaining play that makes you think about just how central love is to life and how all humans seem to have very similar experiences.
The content was so spot-on to the actual human experience, the empathy I felt for the characters’ heart breaks and new loves had me so enraptured that I was biting my nails- I don’t bite my nails.