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“Almost Maine” brings humor and humanity to Millersville

Tony Elliott with the cast of “Almost Maine” (Photo Courtesy of Jay Lindblad).

Josh Rittberg

Arts and Culture Editor

John Cariani’s delightful quirky comedy, Almost Maine tells the story of ten people living in a small area of Maine, each with their own story. The play is done in eleven short scenes, and every cast member plays about two to three parts. The stories deal directly with love and connection, and the magic and disappointment that these feelings can bring. Each story is unique, but as the cast member Noah Gerrity says, “When you have completely different situations it leaves room for the audience to at least have relation to one of them.” This play is both relatable and fun. The balance between hysterical humorous moments and recognizable dramatic situations make it one that seems perfect for college theatre.

Tara Petrowsky is a veteran of the play Almost Maine, as she starred in it in high school. However, in this production, she’s playing three characters. She plays a waitress who has to revisit her two exes, a woman named Marcy wanting her significant other to pay attention to her, and a woman named Gayle. Petrowsky says that “All three of my characters are different in very different ways, but they are all super fun to play.” Playing so many people is a task the actress says is a “Challenge because not only do you have to give each character their own different voice and their own different energy, but you also have to give them their own body language.” Playing the different roles has challenged Petrowsky as an actress to be more self-aware.

Luckily for Petrowsky and the rest of the cast, they had the support and guidance of director, Tony Elliot. He has helped the company dig into many scripts. This was especially the case for Andrew Rhoads who plays the character Randy. Rhoads was originally cast as an understudy. When one member of the company tore his ACL, Tony needed someone to step in that actors’ place. After one rehearsal as an understudy, Tony promoted Rhoads to a featured player, as the original actor unfortunately was no longer able to perform in the scene with his injury. Rhoads began in the role full time the Wednesday before Spring Break. Although a challenge, Rhoads says that “Everyone was incredibly welcoming.” He felt that Tony helped him feel comfortable right away. This speaks a lot to the strength of the director and generosity of the cast as it is not easy to get someone so welcome in a show so quickly.

“Almost Maine” is a personal play that has the ability to resonate with all types of audiences. Morgan Higgins who plays the roles of Glory and Hope speaks to this idea particularly. The character of Hope in the show makes a mistake and will do anything in her power to fix it. Glory is trying to find some “closure” after facing heartbreak. Higgins relates to Glory as they both say exactly what is on their minds. According to Higgins, “We both end up being funny even when we don’t mean to, as we both end up saying something awkward or ridiculous”. She relates to Hope as she has felt that there have been times where she has really messed up and needs to confront someone about it and apologize. This universality as seen in the moments with Hope and Glory helps greatly in making this piece accessible for a broad audience . It is able to be entertaining while also being incredibly raw and relatable. The play also has its sense of mysticism. Tony Elliott himself says that in directing these scenes, “You just let it happen and let the audience deal with it.” A little bit of magic can be exciting in a piece of theatre and certainly adds a bit of whimsy to this show.

The play itself seems to be a joy to work on, but it is the sense of ensemble built into a cast that seems to make being in this play such a delight. Lily Flynn who plays the characters of Marvalyn and Rhonda says that “Everyone in the cast and crew is just so nice, and because it is a really small cast there is a nice dynamic, and it feels close.” In a play where everyone has to act out so many complicated scenes and situations, it makes the process so much easier to have a group of people that just are so supportive. This is Tony Elliot’s last show here at Millersville, but he is determined to get the show up and on its feet. Directing a play is no easy task, and it is important to stay focused. With a strong and dedicated ensemble, a romantic and comedic script and a focused creative team, “Almost Maine” is sure to be an uplifting and lively end to this great year of theatre at Millersville.