Winter can wear on people’s mindsets, but Minnesota State University Moorhead Theatre is using that to its full advantage in presenting “Almost, Maine,” a play all about love, winter and the folks that find themselves in both in the small, fictitious town of Almost in Maine.
“It’s a romantic comedy, it really is,” director David Wheeler said. “It’s a very sweet comedy, it’s been very popular. It was a New York hit, and then it’s been played in a lot of universities and community theaters… because it’s a very sweet play and everyone can identify with love.”
As the first play in the college company’s 2014 half of the University Theatre Series, “Almost, Maine” was chosen for its timing: midwinter. Everyone can get the winter blues when the cold takes hold, and having a cheery little show like this can help keep the blues at bay. Even better, the show’s characters are also in the midst of winter too.
“It’s winter and it’s cold, and I think we all identify with that as well,” Wheeler said.
Chosen for all the right reasons, “Almost, Maine’s” story is one that will leave a smile as it is comprised of not just one but many little love stories that play out over the plot. Nineteen cast members take on all the characters, with two onstage for each little scene.
While none of the stories intersect, certain characters and places around town are referenced, so the audience knows that “Almost” is the common factor in this story of stories.
To address the little challenge of scenic design, MSUM Theatre took a crafty and interesting approach. Constructing a multi-sided, multi-layered, wheeled-set piece, the object of ascertaining how to change the set for each scene was answered. This piece of platform-work allows for easy transitions from scene to scene, but the special effects do not stop there.
Staged in Maine, this show relies heavily on the magic of the Northern Lights, and Wheeler and his team found a way to mimic the aurora borealis with some stellar equipment.
“The scene design is going to involve a good deal of cloth, which is at the back, parts of the ceiling, and the side walls,” Wheeler explained. “We’re using…gobo rotators, which have a kind of a slide that rotate in front of a light source and then project the image out…and it makes the Northern Lights everywhere we want them to be.”
The MSUM Theatre has utilized five gobo rotators for this production along with a heap of white cloth for the projections of the Northern Lights. Audiences are in for even more visual wows when snow starts to fall. This is just another effect of nature brought to life by the play’s design crew.
“We won’t make it snow for a long time. We only need about 30 or 40 seconds of snow, but it really makes an impact at the end of the play,” Wheeler said.
Running along with a whole host of other area theatre productions this month, MSUM Theatre’s “Almost, Maine” offers up a little lightheartedness, a little visual wonder and, of course, pure entertainment.
TIME: 7:30 p.m.
DATE: Feb 20-22
PRICE: $20 for adults | $18 for seniors | $10 for students | Free for NDSU students
PLACE: MSUM’s Gaede Stage