By ROBERT DIGITALE
“Almost, Maine,” Santa Rosa Junior College’s latest theatrical production, is a little like going out for dim sum. It’s got plenty of one-scene stories that are bite-sized, tasty and fun.
The play, by John Cariani, was a smart choice to kick off the new Theatre Arts season. The multiple stories seemed to come together quickly, a good thing so early in the academic year. The play gave lots of cast members their own moments in the spotlight. And the audience at Friday’s premiere loved it.
“Almost” is a small town in northern Maine that we are told “doesn’t quite exist.” We look in on several scenes all set there on a Friday winter night about 9 p.m., right before the mystical aurora borealis shines forth.
What we encounter are people seeking love, though not all of them know it yet. A few will fall out of love. Some won’t find love. Most, to the delight of the audience, will do the opposite.
Each of the eights scene is intimate (as are the prologue, “interlogue” and epilogue). All but one have only two people sharing the stage.
In the stories we meet a diverse group: The outsider, determined to see those unearthly northern lights so she can say farewell to her dead husband; the heartbroken fellow who meets his ex-girlfriend shortly before her wedding day; the former resident who returns years later to finally give an answer to an old high school flame who had asked to marry her.
The play at times goes from the whimsical to the wacky: Speaking literally of broken hearts, explaining the physical diminishment caused by lost hope and making stern entreaties to hand back “all the love I gave you.” You’ll enjoy all this if you can just give in and suspend belief.
What makes it all work are the performances of the young cast members. They embody the strange and lonely characters, including those who have found an opening for love and intend to doggedly pursue it. And with all those layers of winter clothing, they turned getting undressed into a comedic act.
A tip of the hat to the cast members: Danny Medina, Pales Gensler, Cooper Bennett, Miranda Williams, Matthew Heredia, Peyton Victoria, Christine Vondralee, Kot Takahashi, Ruby Poze, Brent Marshall, Zaki Shaheen, Daniel Banales, Daniel Conner, Jackie Wurst, Allegra O’Rourke, Andrea Rosales-Jacinto and Marcos Rivas.
The night included two extra treats: Opening entertainment by the nine-member group Take Jack, which has done pre-show music for three other Theatre Arts productions; and the guitar music in between acts by musician Jesse Boggs.
“Almost, Maine” continues Wednesday Sept. 30 and runs each night through Saturday Oct, 3, plus matinee performances to be given Saturday and Sunday Oct. 3-4.
The season will continue Nov. 20 to Dec. 6 with “Mary Poppins.” “Emotional Creature” runs March 4-13, followed by Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night,” April 22 to May 8.
For information and tickets, click here.