By Anna Popnikolova, assistant editor-in-chief
The annual fall play for Nantucket High School’s drama club—currently in progress!—is a production of Almost, Maine. A heartwarming play written by John Carani, Almost, Maine is a high school drama club staple for its flexible casting and short, quick-paced stories. The play is made up of eleven short scenes, each made up of two to three characters interacting with each other; all set in the same town, all scenes running concurrently over the course of the same ten-minute period. Mostly mythical, strongly metaphorical, and maybe a little cheesy, the writing asks questions about love, loss, and growing up in (or growing out of) a small town; the small (almost) town of Almost, Maine.
The first, sixth and eleventh (last) scenes all tell the continuous story of Pete and Ginette—a young couple still trying to figure out just what love is. Played by freshmen Mani Taveras and Rihanna Cranston, the couple discusses the idea of “closeness” and what that really means, both emotionally and physically. “It’s very, very awkward… romantically wise, because, you know, they’re two teens and they don’t know how to confess their love to each other.” Cranston claimed, and on Ginette as a person, she commented: “She really wants to get to know Pete, and she’s very nice… but she’s very awkward at the same time.” Taveras also talked about Pete, and how he views him as a character in the show. “Pete is an awkward person, he is not a very social person, either. He’s like one of those people— when you’re like, in school, that’s just… he’s there.” He did add that Pete was a similar person to him, which made the scene easier to act. “He’s a quiet kid; I’m a quiet kid, as well, so I can relate to this.” The prologue comes to a close and brings the beginning of the show.
The plot begins with the first scene, titled “HER HEART”, which explores the convoluted past of a heartbroken woman, named Glory, played by Julia Marks — as she meets the charming, if slightly creepy, repairman, Andrew Daume as East. This scene takes the idea of a “broken heart” perhaps more literally than people usually mean the saying, and forces audiences to ponder what it would truly look like if human hearts really could break into pieces.
Marks, on Glory, said that “she’s high-strung, but also going through some stuff, she’s very emotional.” The acting experience that comes with playing a character with such a wide spectrum of emotions has been something Marks has had to work through. “I have to play, like, very excited and crazy but also really upset, you know, my husband’s dead…” In the scene, Glory and East meet and very quickly get to know each other. Perhaps, Daume suggested, too quickly. “It’s not unrealistic for a man to fall in love with someone that fast, ‘cause people are weird. But I think it’s unrealistic for them to fall in love after they were both very creeped out with each other… I think he goes way too fast.” Daume also commented on the way East, as a person, behaves, saying that: “I think East is very weird, he’s a weird guy… I think how he approaches the woman on his lawn is fine, because it’s his lawn, but then he kinda falls in love with her, which isn’t how things normally go.”
A description of the awkwardness of small-town living cannot exclude, of course, the discomfort of bumping into an old lover. Around town, everyone knows everyone, and no matter how hard Sandrine, played by freshman Taylor Bistany, tries to avoid her eager ex-boyfriend, Jimmy (Kipper Buccino), she just can’t get away from him. Their scene, “SAD AND GLAD” shows the strained exchange between a man hoping to bring back and rekindle a past relationship and a woman who has found her happiness away from her ex.
Buccino described the well-meaning and perhaps a bit clueless ex-boyfriend as “not exactly the type who has any emotional awareness. And the fact that (before finding out she’s getting married) he makes an attempt to get back into some kind of a relationship with her implies that he clearly does not know why they broke up in the first place.” Bistany commented on Jimmy’s character as well, saying, “I feel like he, I don’t want to say misses me[Sandrine], but misses somebody, misses having someone.” Buccino and Bistany shared that they put together their own little “backstory” for what really happened between Sandrine and Jimmy when they broke up. “I am this very… leather-jacket-wearing, got the motorcycle, that kind of woman, you know? And then, I left Jimmy because he used 3-in-1 shampoo.” Buccino, on the scene as a whole, said, “I’d say I feel bad for the guy… he’s stuck in a really awkward situation. Running into your ex at a bar would be uncomfortable, but finding out she’s getting married? That’s the cherry on top.” He commented that the scene was fun to act in, despite the uncomfortableness of the situation: “Even though the scene gives me so much second-hand embarrassment, it’s really fun.”
After a scene with so many feelings, “THIS HURTS” is just the scene to examine the polar opposite of the heartbreak of the past few interactions. The audience is introduced to Rocky Monto as Steve, a man who cannot feel. He doesn’t feel pain. He cannot feel love, either. When he meets Marvalyn, played by Keith-Anne Maynard, we learn more about this supernatural medical phenomenon of a man, and how a woman who knows a thing or two about pain reacts to him. The scene provides comedic relief, if nothing else, but also touches on the much deeper idea of the difference between physical pain and emotional pain; and how they can coexist in a body.
“GETTING IT BACK”, is the heartfelt and sentimental—and sappy, of course, in good taste—story of Lendall (Rory Murray) and Gayle (Cate Oberly). It is a story of miscommunication and what it can lead to. The emotive and expressive writing of the scene poses the question: How much love should one give in a relationship? How much does one give? In a scenario focused around the idea of a physical manifestation of what it would look like if someone could actually carry around the love their partner has given them, GETTING IT BACK is one of the most emotional scenes in the play. With a sweet conclusion, it gives the viewer some lighthearted closure, while still presenting that lingering idea of “bags of love” and what that could look like for a relationship.
Then, Pete from the prologue makes a quick reappearance, taking the stage to cut between the tumultuous pace of the changing scenes. Soon after, Deena (Stella Glowacki) and Shelley (Natalie Mack) take stage in “THEY FELL” to talk about their worst date experiences and later perform a moving confession scene. The Deena and Shelley scene (alternatively Randy and Chad) is an expression of the LGBTQ+ experience, showing that love is love. People fall in love with people. And love is just the same. It comes in all colors, all shapes and sizes.
Glowacki and Mack talk about their scene, sharing their feelings about the characters they play. “She [Deena]’s fun! She’s definitely interesting. She breaks a guy’s face, which is quirky,” states Mack. “I really like our scene,” Glowacki said, “I think we have one of the best scenes in the show. It feels really realistic to me… I think it’s really cool that they’re like we’re best friends, we can’t date — there’s no line that’s like we’re both girls, we can’t date.”
On this, the director also has thoughts: “Too often when LGBTQIA+ characters are presented on stage or on the screen, it is through some traumatic event. Rarely do LGBTQIA+ characters experience joy and friendship on stage; and that is what Almost, Maine delivers to its audience. Love, friendship, patience, kindness, inclusivity, and community.”
Consequently, the viewers meet Phil, played by Avery Moore, and Marci, played by Erin McCormack. They are a married couple talking about their relationship, in “WHERE IT WENT”. Audience members who have had troubles in their relationships or marriages will most likely find this scene deeply relatable and powerful. It forces the viewer to realize that sometimes things just don’t work out. Phil and Marci show that that’s okay. Relationships don’t always have to work out—sometimes, it just takes a little thing happening to show people, like the couple in the scene, that their relationship just isn’t working anymore. Sometimes, you’re just waiting for the shoe to drop.
Moore and McCormack, on their scene: “I think the scene is good… I very much believe he [Phil] is at fault for what is happening, even if he isn’t fully aware of it.” About Phil himself, Moore summarized his personality with, “He’s an uneducated guy who is having a mid-life crisis and is most likely about to divorce his wife.”
The scene following isn’t any more uplifting; another two characters realize the inevitable, inescapable truth of what they used to have. “STORY OF HOPE” follows Hope, played by Anna Popnikolova, and a seemingly unknown Man (Goshi Daily) as they are reunited after they’ve both lived their lives. In this surprising scene, full of twists and unexpected discoveries, the audience is shown the truth of someone stuck lingering in the past, and how much moving on can hurt for someone who has lived their life in denial; and the effects of the passing of time. This scene is the embodiment of the realization that high school does not last forever, and people change.
The final official scene of the play is “SEEING THE THING”, with actors Rocky Monto and Olivia Davis portraying Dave and Rhonda respectively. This tells the tale of a woman who can’t see what is right in front of her, and a man who is desperately trying to show her. Another cute confession scene with these two provides a happy ending for the play. It brings the story to a close with the excitement of a new love and the anticipation of a new future for two people in the tiny (almost) town of Almost, Maine.
Davis talks about how she portrays Rhonda, as a character and through the situation she finds herself in, “I see Rhonda as a very clueless, strong person who doesn’t understand romance. She is oblivious to people who see her in a romantic way, and is self-conscious about that part of herself… She is this super strong tomboy who likes her best friend but doesn’t know how to convey that to him.” When prompted about the acting experience in the scene, Davis shared that, “I enjoy playing her and getting into her brain a bit… The scene is definitely an interesting one… My fellow actor and I have an interesting dynamic that I think makes the scene really entertaining to watch.”
The play wraps up as the audience watches a reunion between Pete and Ginette for an adorable closing, their emotive acting in this silent epilogue showing the viewer everything they cannot hear, saying everything the characters needed to say, all without a spoken word. The lights fade to black, and with the help of the actors, the director, and the tech crew, the play of Almost, Maine is complete. On the play, the director, Ms. Tessier said that “Almost, Maine is one of those basic, overdone shows; but for good reason. It’s heartfelt, funny, and so honest. It will make you laugh, cry, and you will see yourself in these characters. Everyone who walks into that theater will be able to relate to these Mainers because they’re truly human. They are imperfect people who are doing their best to love one another with all of their heart. But most importantly, Maine is loving and inclusive in the most genuine way.”
Of course, the play is yet to take place. Opening night is Friday, November 19th. Tickets are $5 and can be reserved (through a method that i should probably figure out soon).