John Cariani’s cleverly written, heartbreaker of a play told in nine vignettes gets a beautiful production by South Pasadena High School Drama. It’s a snowy December night in the small town of Almost, Maine and as the northern lights appear in the sky, the townspeople find themselves crashing into each other in ways that are at once mundane and spectacular.
Fourteen actors play twenty parts and director, Nick Hoffa, has gathered a stellar ensemble in which every actor shines. The scenes are funny and unexpected, at times striking you straight in the heart. The entire cast gives nuanced, mature performances that take you on a journey through a wintry night that reveals itself to be anything but ordinary.
Morgan BeVard is charming as the earnestly in love Ginette and brings to Marci, a woman at a crossroads, a startling vulnerability. Miles Mendoza is endearing as the object of Ginette’s affection whose innocent charm has you rooting for him. As a woman desperate to see the northern lights, Lindsey Calva bursts with intensity; as loveable as she is quirky, which bounces beautifully off the down to earth, solid performance of Adam Fagenson as dependable repairman, East.
Mateo Diez breaks your heart as the forlorn Jimmy and has a poignant, revelatory moment with Yoli Patzkowski who is delightful as his ex, Sandrine. It’s easy to imagine them as a once happy couple and Katie Chabot is having a ball as the salt of the earth waitress at “The Moose Paddy”.
Rose McCullough is fall down funny as the clumsy woman in the laundromat and has fantastic moments with the always terrific Andres Oyaga as a man who has a condition which causes him to not feel pain. Later in the play, Oyaga is breathtakingly raw as a man on the verge of losing it all.
Jackson Monical and Lucy Eller as Lendall and Gayle seem to be breaking up in dramatic fashion that engages the two in some magic realism as they compare amounts of love given. Eller captivates as she takes exasperation to new heights while Monical sweetly conveys genuine bewilderment. Wressey Baugham and Adam Fagenson bring the house down with their slightly drunk, “bro bonding over dates gone bad” scene.
Exely Dillingham and Lindsey Calva deliver an exquisite scene full of heartache and longing. And Anna Gale is irresistible as the tomboy snowmobile champion who’s not too sure what’s going on with her buddy, an energetic Diez, back in a hilarious turn as the loyal, friend-zoned Dave.
Nick Hoffa’s agile direction accentuates the funny and then crushes you with raw authenticity. The scene changes are somehow a part of weaving these people together as each story flows into the next creating the world of this little town. Hoffa deftly creates a delicate balance of whimsy, wit and chest aching reality.
The technical aspects by James Jontz and crew are perfect from the minimalist wood slat walls and doors to the gorgeous projections and new fallen snow, everything comes together to transport you to this small town in northern Maine; even the snowballs look real. The sound design is equally transcendent putting you inside the hearts and minds of these people going through extraordinary moments in their lives.
Almost, Maine delivers a funny and fantastic rollercoaster of life; so much so that it’s hard to describe the myriad of emotions you feel watching this show. Suffice it to say, you will feel things! Glorious things.
Almost, Maine runs through December 9, with two more shows this weekend, Saturday Dec. 2 at 7pm and Sunday Dec. 3 at 2p.m. Final two performances Friday Dec. 8 and Saturday Dec. 9 at 7p.m. The Little Theater, South Pasadena High School, 1401 Fremont Ave. South Pasadena. General Admission is $15, children under 12 $10. Tickets may be purchased online at sphsasb.org, in the SPHS student bank after noon, or in the SPHS Main Office. After Friday Dec. 8, tickets will only be available at the door. Box office opens at 6:30 p.m.