Baldwin fall play 'captures the paradox of love'
Love means taking risks — remaining open to possibilities, or struggling with letting go — for the residents of Almost, Maine, the imaginary town in Baldwin High School's fall play.
Baldwin High School's drama club presents “Almost, Maine,” a play by John Cariani, on Saturday at 7 p.m. and Sunday at 1 p.m. in the Performing Arts Center, located at 4653 Clairton Blvd. Tickets are $7 for adults and $5 for students.
“Almost, Maine,” is the whimsical story of the residents of the northern New England town, who, on a Friday night in the middle of the winter, fall in and out of love in ways that will make the audience laugh, cry and think. The play is split into several scenes that take place at the same time.
“One moment, you'll be dying from laughter and the next minute you'll be crying,” said Pat Sites, who plays Chad, a gruff, masculine character who falls in love with his best friend. “No matter who you are, you can relate to one of those scenes.”
Sites, a senior and this year's school mascot, is making his on-stage debut, after Michelle Jenkins, the show's director and Baldwin's English and theater arts teacher, encouraged him to audition.
“Everybody says that the fall play is so much fun,” Sites said. “So far, it's been a blast.”
Jenkins heard about “Almost, Maine” from a friend this summer, she said. She knew that it would be a great production for Baldwin's actors, as well as an entertaining one for audiences, after reading the script.
“I read the script and immediately fell in love with it. It's funny, but it also has depth,” Jenkins said. “I think it's refreshing. It captures the paradox of love.”
Another factor that drew Jenkins to the show was the number of parts — 19 — which is a large cast for a fall play, she said. More than 50 students auditioned for parts in “Almost, Maine,” but Jenkins promised those not cast as actors that they would have a part in putting the show together.
“They really have just stepped up to the plate,” Jenkins said.
Kalee George, a junior, and Greg Arcuri, a senior, are two of the students working hard behind the scenes of “Almost, Maine.” The success of last year's fall play and musical increased the drama club's popularity, said George, who serves as the stage manager for the production.
“I think that really helped bring a lot of people in,” she said. “It's a really good overall experience.”
George and Arcuri, assistant to the director, are working with the actors to develop his and her characters. Arcuri said he was interested in stepping behind the scenes to see what makes the show run.
Balancing school, scheduling rehearsals and working with the actors and crew requires creativity and problem-solving skills, he said.
“There's a lot of problem solving,” Arcuri said.
For Josh Proud and Maggie Brooks, both seniors, the well-written show and complexity of the characters will appeal to everyone, young or old, male or female, gay or straight. Several of the characters challenge gender norms, but the show is more about the risks of falling in love than anything else.
“It's a magical moment when the whole town falls in love at the same time,” said Proud, who plays Dave, an artistic introvert who is trying to win Brooks' character, Rhonda's attention. “It's not a boring show.”
Rhonda, Brooks said, is a gruff girl, who finds it hard to believe that she deserves to be loved.
“What really does matter is your heart and your soul,” Brooks said. “Everyone can relate to it because it's about love.”
Still George said she encourages audience members to bring a spare Kleenex or two for the more touching scenes of the show.
“I feel that when we hand out programs, there should be a tissue inside,” George said.
Laura Van Wert is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-388-5814 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.