Think of a tiny hamlet up north, not quite reaching Canada, filled with regular town folk but with no governing rules because nobody ever got around to officially organizing. It’s filled with geese, and moose, snow-sprinkled deer, and scenery so photogenic you’d swear it’s Maine.
But as you will soon learn, it’s Almost, Maine, Batavia Players’ next show to debut this weekend.
“The whole premise of the show is that it takes place over 10 minutes. And the place that’s called Almost Maine is based on an actual place. So it’s nine different vignettes that take place in the same town with nine different couples. It’s kind of a cool premise, like a snapshot in a small town, to me is kind of like a cool premise,” Director Patrick Burk said. “So it goes from everything from the ridiculous to the sublime. There’s extremely funny parts, there’s extremely dramatic parts, there’s challenging parts, there’s social redemption parts. It’s really a great, great play.”
The show runs at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday and at 2 p.m. Sunday on the concourse stage inside Batavia City Centre.
What better way to spend a cold winter night than to learn about the intermingling of those nine couples, introduced to the audience through each separate scene? Though the entire production is 90 minutes, each scene reenacts the same 10-minute point in time from varying perspectives, which fascinated Burk when he first encountered the show.
It makes a spectator wonder, ‘why didn’t he know that so-and-so did that?’ a question that is answered when one realizes that the scene is happening at the same exact time as every other scene, Burk said.
“There’s connections between the scenes because, obviously, like in any tiny town, everybody knows everybody else. So there’s references to the other scenes. And there’s a lot of names that switch back and forth with the scenes, with the couples talking about different issues. It’s a beautiful, beautiful play, it really is. But it’s kind of a strange way to be looking at things because you’re trying to figure out, well, why didn’t she know that?” he said. “And it’s because it happens at the same time, so she wouldn’t know. It’s not like one scene follows another scene. It all happens at the same time. So it’s a very strange premise, but it’s beautifully done. And I think the cast does a phenomenal job of that.”
Part of the beauty is that people fall in — and out of — love, hearts get broken, love happens in the strangest of ways, and residents of Almost, Maine — cue the dramatic music — “will never be the same,” according to the show’s description.
The set is rather basic since it is based outdoors, with a bench, chairs and a table, and costumes of winter apparel. There are 19 characters and 16 actors — some have two characters each — and Burk has been impressed with how actors embraced their roles so fully to unfold completely within each 10-minute segment.
“It is very, very popular in high schools. I think the characters are amazing,” he said. “I kind of looked at it as a fairy tale. Could this be true?”
He was equally impressed with how well actors collaborated with one another, given they were from several counties, including Genesee, Orleans, Wyoming, and Niagara.
That, coupled with the ability to perfect the role and be familiar with those of others in case of illness and absenteeism, has worked out well, he said.
“We just came off of our Christmas show, with a cast of 40 people, we were really pushing the envelope, and then coming back with this — and we’ve only been rehearsing for three and a half to four weeks,” he said. “I really do hope people come and see it. It’s a tremendous show. And it’s absolutely beautiful. I know, I say that frequently when we do things, but it really is a beautiful show. It really has a huge appeal, I think to a wide array of people. And I think people will see things, and the characters, of family and friends and themselves, and people that they know.
“And I just think it’s extremely well written, and our actors in this particular show, the 16 of them are absolutely amazing. I can’t say enough about it,” he said.
Almost, Maine was developed at the Cape Cod Theater Project in 2002 and received its world premiere at Portland Stage Company, where it broke box office records and garnered critical acclaim. It opened Off Broadway in the winter of 2005/2006 at the Daryl Roth Theatre and was subsequently published by Dramatists Play Service. Almost, Maine has been produced by more than 5,000 theater companies in the United States, making it one of the most frequently produced plays of the past decade.
Tickets are $16 for adults and $14 for students and seniors. To purchase, go to showtix4u.com.
Photos during rehearsal include actors Shaun Coburn, Jacquie Morrison, Justin Chortie, Brianna Jones, Maia Zerillo, Seth Coburn, Richard Ferris, Sophie Houseman, Stephen VanValkenburg, and Kristen Gelia. Photos by Howard Owens.