A Cosmic Shift
The concept behind Almost, Maine, written by Tony-nominated actor John Cariani best known for playing forensic expert Julian Beck on Law & Order, is very simple on the surface, according to Stephanie Coltrin, Rubicon Theatre’s Associate Artistic Director, who is helming RTC’s production this month. The play is composed of nine vignettes featuring nine different couples, which take place during the same span of time in the fictional town that’s about as far north as one can get in the continental United States.
“The emotions and the things that are happening underneath the surface are so very complicated,” Coltrin said. “It’s exploring how we are as fully developed human beings who, for example, can be depressed and happy at the same time, which is utterly fascinating.”
Coltrin described Almost, Maine as a combination of romantic comedy and magical realism where the action takes place just before 9 pm on a Friday night when the Aurora Borealis appears and irrevocably changes things.
“Every character is at a crossroads in their life and relationship,” she said. “These are very real characters who experience an extraordinary moment that allows them to take the next step to where they need to go, where they could have done one thing and then they have the impetus to do something different, all exploring the fragility of love.”
Coltrin explained that the Aurora is caused by a solar storm, which propels the electrons to travel through the universe.
“I love the poetry that what we perceive is a beautiful thing is actually caused by an actual storm on the surface of the sun,” she said, noting that the location matters, too. “Sometimes we need to feel like we’re at the end of the world to get to the beginning of the next thing. It’s so clever and beautiful.”
When high schools perform Almost, Maine – the play long ago replaced Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream as the most frequently produced work in teen theater – a different actor portrays each of the 18 characters. Professional companies can choose to have the actors double or triple up. RTC has six actors in the cast.
“It’s interesting to watch how the actors become a different person also at the same time and place,” Coltrin said. “It’s even more fun because sometimes the characters reference each other.”
But no matter how you slice it, Coltrin said the 2004 work serves as an elixir to the ongoing COVID pandemic, which, coincidentally, started shutting things down right as RTC’s production was just days away from opening back in March 2020.
“It’s a play that we need at this moment when we’re still in the middle of this thing,” she said. “We all have the experience and a deeper understanding of what it feels like to be disconnected. The connections in Almost, Maine feel so much stronger.”
Almost, Maine performs September 7-25 at the Rubicon Theatre in Ventura. Call (805) 667-2900 or visit www.rubicontheatre.org.