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Almost, Maine, Riverside High School, Leesburg, Virginia, November 23, 2019

Addie Winger

Loudoun Valley High School


Maine may be cold but Riverside High School's production of Almost, Maine will warm your heart. An adorably awkward story of love and loss, Almost, Maine will make you laugh, cry, and fall in love with each of the charming characters.


Surpassing William Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream for the title of most produced play in North American high schools, John Cariani's Almost, Maine is beloved by many. In 2004 the show premiered at the Portland Stage Company in Portland, Maine and later opened off-Broadway in 2006. The play follows nine simultaneous storylines as they explore love in the fictional town (but not quite a town) of Almost, Maine.


Although traditionally a scene between two men, "They Fell" was beautifully executed with a lesbian twist. Best Friends Shelly (Alexandra Lopez) and Deena (Autumn Anderson) begin to realize their perfect match may have been right there the whole time as they start to fall for each other. Literally. Anderson and Lopez's awkward silence captured the cumbersome reality of confessing your love to your best friend.


Michael James Lawless's depiction of Steve's naive nature and quirky mannerisms created an endearing character. Lawless's energy and eagerness to take a beating had the audience wincing as he was repeatedly whacked with an ironing board.


A dramatic shift from the previous vignettes, "Where it Went" told a story of love coming to an end. From lovers to strangers, Marci (Cammie Jackson) and Phil (Brady Rufo) finally revealed their true feelings (or lack thereof) for each other. Jackson's emotion seeped into the audience as she slammed her ring down and stormed off stage, leaving her husband behind. Rufo and Jackson's onstage chemistry produced a dynamic scene of not only anger, but of a couple who had once loved each other.


Rhonda (Megan Hoehn) and Dave's (Nahir Kandarpa) provided impeccable comedic relief as they tore layer after layer of their winter clothes off in a moment of passion. Hoehn's portrayal of the naive tom boy who simply could not see what was right in front of her was delightfully frustrating.


Throughout the show red consistently served as a symbol for love within the costumes designed by Rachel Bunch and Caitlin Pancia. In the scene "Seeing the Thing" Rhonda's red gloved hands were constantly hidden in her pockets. However, once she had accepted her romance with Dave, she stripped to reveal a vibrant red shirt, simply hidden underneath her many layers. In contrast, the scene "Where it Went" featured both Marci and Phil in colorless clothing: their absence of red representing the lack of love.


The simplistic set, designed by Jackson Anderson, managed to make the room feel chilly. The stage, framed with glowing Edison bulbs and white tulle produced a rustic, snow kissed effect. Dressed in winter coats and boots, the run crew blended in with the atmosphere of the show allowing smooth transitions.


A surreal romantic comedy that is sure to tug on your heartstrings, Riverside High School's production of Almost, Maine is worth the hike; even if you must take a taxicab 163 miles.

Maddy Wade

Loudoun Valley High School


Is it true that love is all you need? Well, almost. Add a cast of adept actors, cozy tech elements and a dash of humor, and you'll have everything you need for Riverside High School's artful production of Almost, Maine.


Written by John Cariani, this show has become a beau of high school theatre in recent years. Though met without charity in its one-month Off-Broadway run, in the past year it has been produced more than any other play in North American high schools (Playbill). This is likely due to the show's minimalistic nature, and its ability to showcase numerous actors.


Almost, Maine is a collage of absurd and wonderful vignettes featuring unconventional characters and deep hitting truths that tug on heartstrings. One chilly winter night in northern Maine we peek into the lives of nine couples in varying stages of love and loss.


In a small town like Almost there's nothing to do on a Friday night but ski, drink or ice skate. We find young married couple, Phil and Marci, fresh off the ice in a heated argument. Cammie Jackson as Marci drew in the audience with her emotional intensity and focused stage presence. Her desperate attempts to connect with her husband and gut-wrenching admonition that she's trapped in loneliness chilled the audience.


Back in town, Steve (Michael James Lawless) thought he would always be alone because he has "a lot of deficiencies and not very many capacities." That is, until he meets Marvalyn (Lauren Price). Lawless and Price collaborated to bring a uniquely humorous performance. Lawless's consistency within his peculiar demeanor contrasting with Price's authentic character decisions evoked endearment and interest from the audience.


As they closed out the show, Megan Hoehn (Rhonda) and Nihar Kandarpa (Dave) brought elastic energy and undeniable chemistry to their scene. They displayed impressive maturity with their ability to balance the significance of vulnerability with the awkwardness of new love.


Jackson Anderson's set design sheltered each scene perfectly. The low white platforms simulated a charming snowbank and sheets of tulle illuminated by Edison light bulbs hinted at the Northern Lights. Costume Designers Rachel Bunch and Caitlin Pancia bundled up each actor in layer after layer of coats, socks, boots, hats, and scarves to remind the audience of the frigid locale, and carefully incorporated bright red into the costumes to symbolize attraction between characters. The run crew similarly donned plaid shirts and snow boots to match the actors and swiftly change the set.


Riverside's touching performance demonstrated the immense power of love. The moonless night in Maine helped us empathize and be thankful- reminding each of us to hold our loved ones a little closer this holiday season.


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