Life and relationships in a small, fictitious Maine town have a universal feel in John Cariani’s play “Almost, Maine,” in which the small parts of living — the give-and-take of friendships, romances and acquaintances — shine a light on the whole.
That type of illumination is inherent in theater and a challenge for actors to make their characters connect with a broader audience. The acting aspect, in fact, is why Todd Martin, assistant technical director at Waco Hall, signed on to direct the Waco Civic Theatre production that opens Friday night.
“It’s a great showcase for actors, a wonderfully quirky play,” said Martin, who performed in an Austin production several years ago. “It’s a balance between comedy and drama.”
Cariani’s play strings together eight short vignettes, each featuring two or three residents of Almost, Maine, a community near the Canada border that never coalesced into a formal, legal town. Almost also describes where many of the play’s characters feel they are on the spectrum of relationship — almost connected, almost in love, almost out of it, almost healed from loss.
“There are some wonderfully funny moments, but also some heartbreaking moments,” he said. “It’s about the power of love.”
Martin’s 15-member cast plays 19 characters on a Friday night in a Maine winter, with only Pete (Kenneth C. Lopez) and Ginette (Theresa Inkley) appearing in more than one scene, their characters serving as a “prologue-interlogue-epilogue.”
The setting’s basic, but its time of year stretched the contemporary cold weather gear — coats, hats, gloves, scarves, snowmobile suits — of the theater’s costume holdings.
Martin makes his directorial debut at the WCT, although he has directed more than a dozen productions in community theaters in Wyoming and Lockhart. He got bitten by the theater bug in high school and studied it at a small state school in Nebraska, taking the advice of a college instructor that more theater jobs would be in technical direction.
Martin worked in Cheyenne, Wyoming, for several years, then moved to Austin, where a sister lives. During his time in Austin, Martin served as the artistic director of Gaslight-Baker Theatre in Lockhart.
He came to Waco five years ago to work at Waco Hall, becoming involved with the WCT about a year ago. “I still really enjoy acting and directing,” he said.
Audiences will find both, as well as messages sweet and bittersweet, in “Almost, Maine,” Martin said. “It’s a great show to bring a date to. It’s simple on so many levels, but so complex,” he said.