Southgate Community Players’ adult actors return to live theater with John Cariani’s collection of nine vignettes of love and loss in a small town in “Almost, Maine” June 24 to 26 at the SCP Corner Playhouse.
SCP’s youth theater recently presented “Winnie the Pooh Kids” to break the theater’s pandemic-imposed drought.
“Almost, Maine,” directed by Josie Stec of Wyandotte, includes Kristi Ball of Wyandotte as Hope, David Banach of Canton Township as Pete and Phil, Hannah Bogda of Southgate as Sandrine, Sydnee Corbin of Southgate as Marvalyn and Rhonda, Forest Hudson of Lincoln Park as Steve, Isabella Kroczaleski of Wyandotte as the waitress and Shelly, Melissa Lentine of Canton Township as Glory and Marci, Branden Omoregie of Farmington Hills as Lendall, Ana Pauli of Lincoln Park as Gayle, Jordan Treger of Belleville as East and the man, Chris Warnke of Wyandotte as Dave, Mike Whitcher of Redford Township as Jimmy, and Meghan Zula of Grosse Ile Township as Ginette and Deena.
Mike Stec of Wyandotte is the assistant director, and co-producer with Erin Gensterblum of Trenton.
Director Josie Stec said she fell in love with the show last November when she played Sandrine and Shelly in the Livonia Community Theatre’s production of “Almost, Maine.”
“I knew from the first read-through that this was the show I wanted for my first time directing,” she said. “It’s all about the characters, human nature and the magical intricacies of relationships and human connections in a most lovely way.”
Stec said “Almost, Maine” is a beautiful, funny show that is sweet without being saccharine.
“Our hope is that audiences with have run the gamut of emotion throughout and feel like they just received a warm hug from a friend by the final curtain,” she said. “Who doesn’t need that right now?”
Stec said the need for her actors to wear winter coats under stage lights in June is rough on her cast.
“I appreciate them sweating it out for the good of the show,” she said.
Stec said that guiding the actors through character exploration and watching them build their confidence is emotionally fulfilling.
“A friend told me that as actors, we are players in a story, but as directors, we are the ones telling it, and that is perfect for this show,” she said. “Instead of digging into one character for one scene, I’ve had a hand in helping craft all of these wonderful scenes.”
Stec said this is SCP’s first live adult show since February 2022, and the cast and crew are happy to be in the theater again.
“We are so excited to be back,” she said. “The show has a little bit of every imaginable emotion, and I hope audiences feel every bit of them.”
Corbin said watching actors pretending to be cold in June is a good way to cool off – and added that the playhouse is air conditioned.
She plays two characters: emotionally complex Marvalyn and self-sufficient Rhonda.
“I love Rhonda so much,” she said. “She is the tomboy tough girl I always wished I was.”
Corbin said “Almost, Maine” is a show one can enjoy revisiting.
“This is a show you should see more than once because there are so many nuances that can be missed on the first watch,” she said.
Kroczalewski said the show will make audiences feel a wide range of emotions as they identify with the characters and their situations.
“I find the show cathartic in a way, knowing there are moments each of us can relate to, thinking about our own lives and relationships,” she said. “I am excited to be a part of telling these stories.”
Banach said audiences will fall in love with the characters and their stories.
“‘Almost, Maine’ is made up of multiple mini love stories about everyday people falling into and out of love while the Northern Lights weave magic into their lives,” he said. “I promise you will be blown away by the magic of the stories.”
Warnke said the Northern Lights magic extends to the humor in the stories, and that his character, who is hopelessly in love, comes across as both playful and straightforward.
“It’s about nine couples and the different stages of their relationships,” he said. “Bring your funny bone, and enjoy the different emotions the play has to offer.”
Pauli said that not only will audiences laugh, they will enjoy the theater’s cool interior during the current heat wave.
“I hope everyone leaves the show happy and enjoyed some good laughs,” she said.
Lentine said the story captures both small town life and the magic that can be accomplished through love.
“Love takes shape in many forms, and as you watch each couple, you will laugh even as your heartstrings get pulled,” she said.
Lentine said she first played the character of Glory seven years ago, and since then, she has wanted to further develop the character.
“This play is a mixture of happiness and sadness, and if we make audiences feel this by curtain call, then I’d say we did our jobs well,” she said.
Hudson said audiences will leave pondering the nuances of the love stories, which Whitcher said evokes both laughter and sadness.
“For me, the hardest part was having to channel the honesty in my character,” he said. “It is a funny scene, but, like with a lot of characters in the show, Jimmy has some real vulnerability and hurt that I have to tap into.”
Whitcher said the show has minimal sets and props by design.
“The showcase is the characters we’ve created,” he said. “That is where most of the times and effort has been put on this show.”
Ball said the show explores relationships at many different stages.
‘There is something for everyone to connect to,” she said. “I want the audience to walk away having felt something. There is so much emotion to this play, and that is the goal for me, for audiences to feel it.”
Bogda said the stories of love and loss are both hysterical and gut-wrenching, and said she could relate to her character in many ways.
“It was hard to face those feelings and moments head on, but it also gave me the opportunity to identify with and know what she is going through during the scene,” she said. “There are so many twists and turns in this show, and I hope audiences are shocked by every single one, and have a good laugh.”
Zula said the show is about love in its many chaotic forms, something to which everyone can relate.
“I have fallen in love with the show, and hope others can enjoy the play’s glimpses of humanity in its purest form,” she said. “I hope audiences get the chance to really feel the emotions and connect to the characters as we have. It is a wonderful play that will take you on a rollercoaster of emotions.”
The show runs at 7 p.m. June 24 and 25 and 3 p.m. June 26 at the SCP Corner Playhouse, 12671 Dix-Toledo Road, Southgate.
Tickets are $15 for adults and $13 for students and seniors, and are available at the door and online, at showtix4u.com/event-details/65326.