“Almost, Maine” is a play with which most Minnesotans can probably identify.
“I say it’s like ‘Love Actually‘ done by Minnesotans,” said Greg Miller, who is directing the play.
Yes, it is actually about love. And it is set in Maine. And “Almost, Maine,” which opens Feb. 5 at Rochester Civic Theatre, shares some cultural traits with Minnesota.
“When I read the script, I thought, ‘These people could be from Minnesota,'” Miller said.
The comedy, written by John Cariani (perhaps better known as Julian Beck on “Law and Order“), debuted in 2004 at the Portland Stage Company, in Portland, Maine. It has since become popular with community and high school theater troupes.
“It has a lot to recommend it,” Miller said. “You read the whole thing and it’s funny without poking a stick in anybody’s eye.”
The play consists of multiple scenes, with different actors in virtually every scene. Miller has selected a large cast to fill all the roles. “You can do it with people doubling up, or with a lot of people, like we’re doing,” he said.
“Almost, Maine,” takes place in the town of Almost, Maine — hence the comma in the title. It’s the dead of winter. “It all takes place on the same night in the same town, at the same exact time,” Miller said. “All the scenes add up to love.”
It’s a comedy with a twist.
“You laugh, you laugh, you laugh, and then you’re touched or saddened by what happens,” Miller said.
The large cast includes a number of RCT regulars, as well as a handful of newcomers.
“When we sat down to read auditions,” Miller said, “I thought, ‘This is a who’s who of theater performers in Rochester.’ There are a lot of big names in there.”
Included in the cast are Sean Lundberg, Kayley Dahle, Katie Hawley, Amanda Ruggeri, Denise Ruemping, Mallory McKay, Angus Russell and others who will be familiar to RCT audiences.
Given the many scenes, there are numerous set changes. “We’re hope to make them quick enough, because this is a show that flows,” Miller said. “But we also want to leave time for reflection.”
Speaking of reflections, the residents of Almost, Maine, enjoy looking at the northern lights on winter nights — something we rarely see here in southern Minnesota.
“The only way to see the northern lights is to come to the play,” Miller said.
Other than that, he described the sets using words like “snow,” “desolate” and “barren” — words with which most Minnesotans can certainly identify at this time of year.
If you go
What: “Almost, Maine”
When: Feb. 5 through Feb. 21; 7 p.m. Feb. 5 and 6, Feb. 11-13, Feb. 19-20, and 2 p.m. Feb. 21
Where: Rochester Civic Theatre, 20 Civic Center Drive SE
Tickets: $24 adults, $19 senior citizens, $17 students; 507-282-8481