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MTSU Theatre’s ‘Almost, Maine’ shines on familiar territory

There’s still room on — and tickets for — that comfy park bench to talk about love, loss and maybe a little bit of magic during MTSU Theatre’s new production of “Almost, Maine,” which opens Wednesday, Feb. 24.

MTSU junior Paul Gary of Knoxville, left, figures out his place in the world as "Pete" while sophomore Megan Castleberry of Cleveland, Tennessee, listens as "Ginette" in the new MTSU Theatre production of "Almost, Maine." The play runs Wednesday-Sunday, Feb. 24-28 in MTSU's Tucker Theatre. (MTSU photo by Andy Heidt)

MTSU junior Paul Gary of Knoxville, left, figures out his place in the world as “Pete” while sophomore Megan Castleberry of Cleveland, Tennessee, listens as “Ginette” in the new MTSU Theatre production of “Almost, Maine.” The play runs Wednesday-Sunday, Feb. 24-28, in MTSU’s Tucker Theatre. (MTSU photo by Andy Heidt)

Curtain times are 7:30 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday, Feb. 24-27, and 2 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 28, for the John Cariani play that brings together a cast of eight to create a series of nearly a dozen two-character vignettes.

Tickets for the MTSU Arts performances are available online at www.mtsu.edu/tuckertheatre and at the Tucker Theatre box office one hour before curtain times.

Cariani, who turned his hand to playwriting while acting in his Tony-nominated role in the Broadway revival of “Fiddler on the Roof” and is now one of the stars of the Tony-winning cast of “Something Rotten,” found his “Almost, Maine” inspiration in his small northern Maine hometown.

Since its premiere nearly 14 years ago, “Almost, Maine” has been translated into more than 20 languages, produced by more than 2,500 theater companies and surpassed William Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” as the most-produced high school play in North America.

“I was in a production in my hometown, and it’s been one of my favorite shows since,” says cast member Megan Castleberry, a Cleveland, Tennessee, native and sophomore theatre major. “I definitely wanted to be a part of it here.”

Click on the poster to buy tickets for the MTSU Theatre production of "Almost, Maine" Feb. 24-28.

Click on the poster to buy tickets for the MTSU Theatre production of “Almost, Maine” Feb. 24-28.

“I read it a million times in high school and I saw some productions of it, but I never got a chance to perform in it,” adds colleague Paul Gary of Knoxville, a junior theatre major. “When I got here, in a Fundamentals of Directing class, I chose to direct a five- to 10-minute scene from the play, and … there was so much more to the play than just a romantic comedy with several different characters.

“It has this incredible element of magical realism. … Even though this is a minimalist production, there are so many important things that happen that make it a lot bigger … so much more than meets the eye.”

Directed by MTSU theatre professor Kyle Kennedy, “Almost, Maine” doesn’t feature Maine accents or references to lobstermen. There’s overlapping dialogue, as in real life, and the characters are ordinary people who “take time to wonder about things,” according to the playwright.

Gary and Castleberry, who are part of three of the show’s stories, co-star in the Prologue as “Pete” and “Ginette,” respectively. Their conversation under a wintry night sky could be the same almost anywhere.

“This show is so inviting. You don’t necessarily have to love theater to come and see it,” says Castleberry. “I’m hoping that we get a big community presence … because we want to share what we’ve been working on here at MTSU with the whole community.”

“We’re expanding everything that we do here, and we’re trying to make sure that the work that we do is bigger than ‘another public school with a major in theater,’” adds Gary. “This play spans so many ages that I think everyone’s had an interaction similar to something in this play and something everyone can relate to.”

General admission tickets are $10 each and $5 for K-12 students and senior citizens. MTSU students with valid IDs will be admitted free. For more information, visit http://mtsuarts.com.

— Gina E. Fann (gina.fann@mtsu.edu)