After its opening on Portland Stage in 2004, “Almost, Maine” has traveled internationally breaking box office records, while its playwright, John Cariani, who grew up in Presque Isle, has collected acting credits on and off-Broadway, in TV and film, including a Tony-nomination for his portrayal of Motel in “Fiddler on the Roof.” With over 5,000 productions to date, “Almost, Maine” is so popular that it has become a contemporary classic. It’s been performed around the world and has been translated into over a dozen languages.

Anita Stewart, executive and artistic director of Portland Stage invited the play to its new works festival, The Little Festival of the Unexpected in 2003, and produced its Mainstage premiere in 2004. “‘Almost, Maine’ is a play that comes from the heart. Portland Stage is proud to have helped shape it and I am thrilled to embrace both John and his play once again. John’s play introduced Maine to the world and it is wonderful to see how excited our community is about this production.” Early ticket sales are on trend for this production of “Almost, Maine” to become the highest attended mainstage production in Portland Stage’s history.

The New York Times described “Almost, Maine” as “A higher-concept and more clever version of Hollywood hits like ‘Love Actually’ and ‘Valentine’s Day,’ this rom-com leans on shrewd writing rather than star power in its nine interlocking love stories. (It) alternates beautiful, evocative prose with stutteringly awkward exchanges and often very funny sight gags.”

“‘Almost, Maine’ is a loosely connected collection of love stories based in a fictional northern Maine town (that isn’t quite a town) called Almost, Maine, and those stories are all slightly surreal—and they’re romantic—and not sentimental,” explains John Cariani. “There’s a great quote by F. Scott Fitzgerald—and I’m paraphrasing, but you get the gist, ‘… the sentimental person thinks things will work out and last; the romantic person has a desperate confidence that they won’t—that they’ll fall apart.’  I’m a romantic person, not a sentimentalist. I’m always worried that things are going to fall apart and not work out. And ‘Almost, Maine’ is full of romantics–and it’s for romantics. Most romantic comedies are actually sentimental comedies. In a true romantic comedy—you want to feel like the characters’ desires will never be fulfilled, so it’s thrilling when they are fulfilled. Sentimental comedies make you feel like everything’s going to work out. Romantic comedies make you worry. And ‘Almost Maine’ is a romantic comedy, and it features working people – people who work in heating & cooling and in wood chip mills, in paper mills. Because people who really work for a living have fantastic, spectacular, beautiful things happen to them like—love.”

“I am a character actor, and as a character actor, you play the sidekick to help the star get the guy, the girl, the money, or the dream, but you don’t get anything for your own character. I wanted to write a play for a bunch of character actors. You can be any kind of human and be in ‘Almost, Maine.’ It’s a bunch of love stories meant to be played by people who aren’t what we would consider “hot.” This bunch of love stories is for people who don’t look like actors—they’re for people who look like people. They’re for ragtag character actors—who don’t get to play ‘lovers’ usually.”

“Almost, Maine” is currently the most frequently produced play in North American high schools topping perennial favorites “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” “You Can’t Take It with You,” and “Our Town,” so it is no surprise that area schools clamored to participate in this production’s Portland Stage Student Matinee Program which annually provides more than 7,000 students with discounted tickets for student matinees. The goal of the program is to help students gain understanding of their own lives by connecting on a deeper level to productions that explore and mirror the world in which they live. Following the performance, students participate in a talk-back discussion with the cast and crew, which helps them gain awareness of the creative process and encourages them to think critically about the themes and messages of the play. There are 567 students coming to see “Almost, Maine” with their school from Falmouth Middle School, Greely High School, Brunswick High School, Cape Elizabeth High School, Fryeburg Academy, Gorham High School, Maine Coast Waldorf School, Yarmouth High School, Falmouth High School, Waynflete, Blue Hill Harbor School, and Presque Isle High School, the high school that John Cariani attended and consistently praises for his experiences in their drama department.

Portland Stage had to adjust its original scheduled run of “Almost, Maine” to accommodate Cariani’s newly acquired role in “Caroline, or Change,” a Tony Kushner and Jeanine Tesori musical which begins rehearsals in early February and begins previews March 13 at Studio 54 in New York. Also to Cariani’s acting credit, he has recently appeared on Broadway as Itzik in the Tony Award-winning musical, “The Band’s Visit.” Other Broadway credits include Nigel Bottom in “Something Rotten!” for which he received an Outer Critics Circle Award nomination; and “Fiddler on the Roof” for which he won an Outer Critics Circle Award and received a Tony Award nomination. On film, John has shared the screen with Robert De Niro, Christopher Walken, and Ed Asner. On television, he’s probably best known for his recurring roles on Law & Order, Numb3rs, and The Onion News Network. He has recently guest starred on “The Blacklist” and “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.”

This production will feature John Cariani from Jan. 15-Feb. 2 and again on Feb. 8 and 9. Dustin Tucker will fill in for John on Feb. 5, 6 and 7. The other three cast members are from New York City and Los Angeles: Raymond McAnally, Kathy McCafferty, and Samantha Rosentrater. All are members of the Actors’ Equity Association. Sally Wood directs the play. Set design, which includes a forest on stage, is by Anita Stewart.

Cariani has also recently finished a novel version of “Almost, Maine,” published by Macmillan Publishing, which will be released in March.

Portland Stage is located at 25 Forest Ave., Portland, and offers Mainstage performances, New Works, and Education programs. The 2019-20 offers one co-production musical with Maine State Music Theatre, six Mainstage Productions, Staged Readings of its commissions, and Studio Series productions. PSC promotes and celebrates the creation of new plays with an environment that supports the region’s playwrights, builds bridges between its theater and national writers, and builds awareness of theater with three exciting initiatives: The Clauder Competition, the Little Festival of the Unexpected, as well as From Away, a festival in collaboration with the International Writing Program (IWP) at the University of Iowa. This year, Portland Stage also celebrates its 10th season of the Susie Konkel Theater for Kids and the 100,000 student experiences it has provided in the last decade through the Theater for Kids. Memberships to Portland Stage are available. More than just a seat in the house, members gain insider access, great savings and flexibility. Visit portlandstage.org to learn more.

ENHANCING THE ALMOST, MAINE EXPERIENCE

Free discussions with John Cariani

Artistic Perspective: Post-show on Sunday, Jan. 26

Curtain Call: Post show on Sunday, Feb. 2

RUSH35: A group for people 35 & under

Members Club Reception at 6:30 p.m. on Jan. 15

35 or Under are invited to join online

$15 Mainstage Tickets & Monthly Reception

OPEN CAPTIONING

1/31 at 7:30 pm

PORTLAND STAGE’S REMAINING 2019-20 MAINSTAGE SEASON

NATIVE GARDENS by Karen Zacarías
March 3 – 29, 2020

This brilliant new comedy turns well-intentioned neighbors into feuding enemies when a rising Chilean attorney, and his pregnant American wife, purchase a home next to a well-established D.C. couple, and their prized English garden. Cultures and gardens clash over a fence line that spirals into an all-out border dispute, exposing notions of race, taste, class and privilege.

THE CHILDREN BY LUCY KIRKWOOD by Lucy Kirkwood
April 7 – 26, 2020

This Tony-nominated play took both English and American audiences by storm with its journey into the dark past of three nuclear physicists who meet in a ‘cottage on the east coast’ to contemplate the end of the world. Old memories are relived before a harrowing proposal is revealed: just what will be done about the children?

SABINA by Willy Holtzman, with music by Louise Beach, and lyrics by Darrah Cloud
May 5 – 24, 2020

This moving new musical illuminates Sabina Spielrein; a patient turned doctor, unfairly sidelined to the margins of history by two famous men in her field of psychiatry, Jung and Freud. Mark the centennial of women’s suffrage with a journey through melody and song to discover this truly remarkable woman.

Portland Stage will present “Almost, Maine” starring John Cariani, Kathy McCafferty, Raymond McAnally and Samantha Rosentrater. Submitted photo by Mical Hutson

Portland Stage will present “Almost, Maine” featuring John Cariani (an actor as well as the author of the play), Sally Wood (director), Kathy McCafferty, Samantha Rosentrater and Raymond McAnally. Submitted photo by Mical Hutson

Portland Stage will present “Almost, Maine” starring John Cariani, Kathy McCafferty, Samantha Rosentrater and Raymond McAnally. Submitted photo by Mical Hutson

 


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