Spring stage production ‘Almost, Maine’ now in rehearsal

The cast of the spring stage production "Almost, Maine" is currently in rehearsal at Penn State New Kensington. The three shows performed by the Penn State Players are set for 8 p.m. Thursday to Saturday, April 10 to 12, in the campus' Forum Theatre.

Bill Mitas, instructor of theater arts at the campus, directs the romantic comedy is a series of vignettes about love – falling in, falling out, unrequited – in the mythical town of Almost, Maine. With a fantastic view of the Aurora Borealis, the town is the northernmost place in the United States. The play takes place on a cold night in the middle of winter. Whether it’s the frigid temperatures or the Northern Lights playing havoc with everybody’s love life, the residents are a bit out of kilter as strange relationships are forged and discarded.

“It has some wonderfully exciting character studies that offer students a great opportunity,” said Mitas, who earned the campus’ Excellence in Teaching award last year. “It is well written and appealing to all. I think it a good fit for both our students and audience.”

A remote town, Almost is so far north that it is almost out of the country. Had there been too many whiskeys by the 17th century surveyor or too many kinks in the surveyor’s chain, then the good folks of Almost could almost be a part of Quebec, speaking French Canadian instead of non-rhotic English, singing “God Save the Queen” instead “God Bless America” and pining for the return of the Quebec Nordiques, who are now the Colorado Avalanche of the National Hockey League, instead of fanatically following the fortunes of the Portland Pirates, who are one of the bottom-dwellers of the American Hockey League. And it’s almost not a town at all since the residents have procrastinated in officially organizing the government.

The play was written by John Cariani, an actor/playwright who is best known for his role as Julian Beck, the crime scene investigation tech in the TV show “Law and Order.” He has appeared in numerous films and stage productions and was nominated for a Tony in 2004 for his role as Motel the Tailor in the Broadway revival of “Fiddler on the Roof.”

“After a few revisions, the cast has been finalized, and the students are working hard with lines," said Mitas. "They will be ready for show time."

The cast features Shannon McDonald, of Saltsburg; Nick DeRiso, of Murrysville; Trevor Arnett, of Verona; Dawn Fink, of Apollo; Jonathan Vertosick, of Tarentum; James Farley, of Vandergrift; Klase Danko, of New Kensington; Meghan Marsh, of Springdale; and Matt Mlynarski, of Lower Burrell.

In addition to Mitas, the crew includes stage manager Lauren Smith, of Ford City, lighting director Patrick Lang, of Pittsburgh, and sound director Sarah Mihelic.

Although “Almost, Maine” only had a one-month run off-Broadway, it has achieved cult status with professional and nonprofessional theater companies. The show is one of the most frequently produced plays of the past decade. An off-Broadway revival opened in February at the Gym at Judson.

Off-Broadway refers to distinctions made by union contracts not to the location of a theater. Actors' Equity Association, which represents more than 49,000 actors and stage managers, and unions representing craft workers have one set of pay scales for Broadway productions (generally those in New York City theaters of 500 or more seats) and a lower scale for smaller theaters, classified as off-Broadway houses. The term off-off-Broadway refers to workshop productions that may use Equity members for a limited time at substandard pay. Equity realizes that actors should have an opportunity to develop their talents in offbeat roles without losing their union memberships.

Tickets for the production are $8 for students and $12 for the general public, and are available by calling 724-334-6062.

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Last Updated April 03, 2014