Irvington Conservatory Theater’s production of “Almost, Maine” is a must-see
December 30, 2015
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By Caitlin Chen | Opinions Editor
Almost, Maine is a peculiar town. The Irvington Conservatory Theater’s production of John Carini’s beloved “Almost, Maine” is set in the fictional town in northern Maine; one Friday night, an abundance of peculiar and even magical meetings connect strangers and lovers. The entire play only featured 19 actors. Though it is only Drama teacher Mr. Ballin’s first year as Acting Director, great acting, stage design, and lighting made the production exceptional.
“The small cast gave me an opportunity to work very closely with each of the students,” Mr. Ballin said. “They’re love stories, about relationships. I think they’re funny, they’re quirky, and it’s a good way to work on contemporary, realistic scenes. It may be popular among drama teachers just because it’s such good material to work with.”
In “Sad and Glad,” Jacob Rosen, who played Jimmy, and Sydney Bush, who played Sandrine, superbly encaptured the lingering love and unavoidable awkwardness of a chance meeting between exes while keeping the scene endearing and light.
“My scene starts out really sad, because my character hasn’t seen this girl in months after she left him. There’s a twist ending, and it gets happier in the end,” Rosen said. “I also loved seeing all the other scenes and seeing how they’re different from each other, because they’re really different in every way. It’s a fun play about love to see with your family.”
Mr. Ballin made significant casting changes to the play; both the scenes “Getting It Back” and “They Fell” featured female actors. “Getting It Back,” tells the story of Gayle, played by Jasmine Wahab, and her longtime girlfriend Kendall, played by Toriana Shaffer. The scene first seems to depict a heartbreaking imbalance of love, but ends in a beautiful twist. Wahab’s performance was particularly well-developed and executed. In the scene “They Fell,” Molly O’Donnell and Zoey Jaramillo hilariously play Randy and Chad, stereotypically masculine men begin the scene by telling the stories of their recently unsuccessful dates, before figuratively and literally falling for each other.
“I love actually being on the stage–the feeling is like no other,” Jaramillo said. “I love hearing the people in the audience laugh and enjoy themselves. And I love my scene! I think it’s funny and very cute and I’ve enjoy working with Molly. We worked very hard on it and I think it shows in our performance.”
The production team, expertly led by Mr. Ballin, designed nine different beautiful sets; in “Sad and Glad” the stage was transformed into a Western-style restaurant, while “Her Heart” and “Story of Hope” utilized the two small houses installed on stage, and in “Where It Went” the stage was decorated like a skating pond. The stage crew, led by stage manager Gabriel Reyna, worked as a seamless unit, changing each of the nine complex sets in a series of well-practiced actions. Lighting helped give each scene had a different mood; the last freeze-frame shot illuminated the last couple in a blue light as fake snow fell, a beautiful ending to a beautiful play.
“It’s a beautiful little piece,” Mr. Ballin said. “It’s sweet and funny, and I’m very proud of the actors for the work they’ve done on it and the real emotion they’re bringing to it. There’s some very sophisticated work being done on this, and it’s lovely to see.”