CORVALLIS — The scene opens onto a snowy white landscape, enhanced by snowballs, an icy-looking platform, draped white sheets reminiscent of a snowy wind and a pure ice-blue background: It all speaks of a snowy wonderland. When the lights go dim, the white even sparkles and glitters like light radiating through ice. The only thing that’s missing is the chill in your bones.
You’re in the little — and fictional — northern town of Almost, Maine, the setting and name of OSU Theatre’s latest production, which opens on Nov. 10, and runs for two weekends through Nov. 20, at the Withycombe Main Stage on the Oregon State University campus.
Each of the play’s nine scenes is meant to take place at the same time – 9 p.m. on a February Friday – but at different locations in Almost. Each of the scenes revolves around one of the different stages of love: the beginning, middle and end of love, new love, old love, and the love in between. As the play progresses, the audience is given snapshots of the relationships between various Almost residents.
“We come into these different relationships at different points in their love for one another,” said George Caldwell, the play’s director and an assistant professor at OSU. “We see a marriage fall apart before our very eyes, we see people meet each other for the first time. We see a woman come back and visit her old lover after a decade.”
Each examines a different stage, a different perspective, of love. There’s the awkward moment of saying “I love you, too” for the first time although it wasn’t meant whole-heartedly, and the instantaneous moment of finding that first tiny spark of chemistry with a complete stranger. There’s that terrifyingly awkward, terrifyingly desperate moment of running into an ex for the first time in months — and at her bachelorette party, too — and the bittersweet moment of letting an old love go in order to let a new love in.
After reading the script for “Almost, Maine” Caldwell was instantly intrigued by this series of characters and their love stories.
“It came alive right away,” he said. “The characters are quirky, interesting, a little odd and eccentric. I can visualize them. I can hear them in my mind.”
It also provided some needed contrast to the much darker play he directed last season.
“Last year I did ‘Glengarry Glen Ross,’ which is about vile, disgusting, mean-spirited, cruel people,” Caldwell said. “I was looking for a play that was nice, refreshing.”
So the characters in “Almost” are believable, but they’re also in situations to which audience members will relate.
“Everybody’s been in love at one time or another, or close to it,” Caldwell said, “so there’s at least one moment in the play that everyone will connect with. Probably several moments in the play. We’ve all had that relationship that fell apart and we handled it badly. We’ve all been madly in love. We’ve all touched that other person for the very first time, and remember how exciting, how explosive that simple little touch of the hand was.”
Although some of the relationships in the play fall apart, the play overall has a positive view of love.
“Relationships are a good thing, even if they don’t always work out,” Caldwell said. “They top being lonely and alone.”