Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology
While many of us anxiously await the arrival of the holidays, West Springfield High School has already embraced the warmth and love of the winter season with their stunning production of Almost, Maine.
Since its 2004 premier at the Portland Stage Company in Portland, Maine, John Cariani's play Almost, Maine has held its place as one of America's most produced high school plays for over a decade. The romantic comedy gives audiences a window into the lives of nine different pairs in the fictional town of Almost, Maine. Told through a series of short scenes, each couple's tale plays out concurrently across the small town, connected only by the mystical fibers of the night's aurora borealis.
With characters that rotate from scene to scene, Almost Maine demands its performers to be completely in sync with their scene partners, and the actors in West Springfield's production surpassed all expectations. Each duo held a clear, unique chemistry, and made great use of their limited stage time, creating couples that were genuine and heartwarming. Simplistic yet creative technical aspects gave the theatre a cozy ambiance, bringing the play's rustic, northern setting to life.
As with many shows, the performances given by the actors in the play's beginning scenes set the tone for the night - a task Adella Bailey and Nick Frazier took up with grace and sincerity. From her raw, exposed energy to the subtle clutch she kept on the bag holding the broken pieces of her heart, Bailey played Glory, an out-of-towner who brings her broken heart north as she copes with the loss of her unfaithful husband, with consistency and incredible nuance. Frazier's performance as East, the repairman who tries to mend Glory's heart, captured the welcoming presence of a small-town native with his concerned voice and expert use of rhythm. Their scene "Her Heart" saw the pair often speaking over one another, but Bailey and Frasier tackled this expertly, using both volume and tonnage to create overlapping dialogue that was realistic without feeling overwhelming.
Plenty of other notable performances followed in each subsequent scene. In "Where it Went," Lilly Barber (Marci) achieved remarkable authenticity, with everything from her mannerisms to her voice embodying the middle-aged character. Comedic duo Jack Furman (Dave) and Chloe Nasr (Rhonda) delighted in their scene "Seeing the Thing," and played off one another with impeccable timing and ease.
Utilizing double-sided facades which maximized stage space, the show's set, designed by Finley Cochran and Elanor Heinbaugh, drew inspiration from the play's humble setting to create pieces that felt as if they had been pulled straight from the snowy forests of Maine. Two porches sat back to back, the use of both giving the scene's locations a feeling of variation without disturbing the universe being established onstage. But perhaps the most enthralling technical element came at the end of the show, when TJ Green used a variety of small projectors to cast the Northern Lights across the ceiling and walls of the auditorium. Rich hues of green, violet, and aqua united not only the characters as each couple viewed the natural phenomenon, but the audience as well.
With the ever-present need for masks and regulations, it's easy to feel alone this winter. But with their honest, heartfelt portrayal of love in all its forms, the cast and crew of West Springfield's Almost, Maine showed that regardless of the things separating us, a much deeper force always serves to unite.
W.T. Woodson High School
Each and every town is magically ordinary on its own, and Almost, Maine, is no exception--though its magic may be more literal than figurative.
Almost, Maine, first performed in 2004, is a collection of small romantic comedies by John Cariani. Residents of Almost, Maine, live seemingly regular lives with a comical touch of whimsy. Each small set of characters has a separate scene where their story takes place, unconnected from the others through plot, but intertwined through community. Lovingly executed by actors and technical crew, West Springfield High School's production of Almost, Maine draws in its audience with an exhibition of the color and life that comes from a supposedly insignificant town.
The scene Her Heart features East (Nick Frazier), a lifetime resident of Maine who falls in love with a hiker named Glory (Adella Bailey). Frazier and Bailey's chemistry was beautiful, making their comedic timing perfectly smooth, with both movement and delivery of lines. Bailey and Frazier naturally react to each other's energy, making every interaction more genuinely heartfelt.
More wholesome performances came from the Prologue, Interlogue, and Epilogue, with young lovers Pete (Oliver Bourjaily) and Ginette (Mad Mitchell). Mitchell's exaggerated cartoonish movements beautifully accented the whimsy of her story and of the play as a whole. Bourjaily's portrayal of his character is amazingly depicted through his silent use of body language, his emotions perfectly represented through his execution of expression.
Jimmy (Jason Richter) from the scene Sad & Glad, as well as Marci (Lilly Barber) from Where it Went, brought the audience into the scene with their outstandingly characterized roles. To wit, Richter's interactions with his scene mates Sandrine (Audra Jones) and the Waitress (Ellie Maloney), while the props and set around him were natural and realistic. Every movement of Richter's character perfectly set up for the twist at the end of his scene. Barber truly understood the heart of her character, bringing forth Marci's emotions and feelings through her tone and the delivery of her lines.
Technical performance from costumes, set, and special effects were all gorgeously representative of the show's core. The teamwork that made this show possible was evident in the intricate way each tech aspect was woven into the overall design. The incredible attention to detail in every costume, designed by Halli Wilkerson and Maddie Schulz, brought the characters to life. The contrast between characters in each scene was brought to life through subtle colors, textures, and style of clothing, all stunningly displayed on stage. The set was expertly designed by Finley Cochran and Eleanor Heinbaugh, clearly displaying their deep understanding of the show's tone and message. The set was cozy without being cramped, making each scene more intimate and homely. The special effects, made using LED projections, were absolutely breathtaking. Saving the best for the end, technology designer TJ Green made a spectacular display of talent with their magnificent display of the Northern Lights, drawing the audience into the world of the play. Everything was cleanly prepared by Stage Manager Meg Hogan and her amazing crew.
West Springfield's moving performance of Almost, Maine truly captured the hearts of the audience in its warm exhibition of love, passion, and community.