Arts & Entertainment

Richland Players taking on New England-style love story

There's a new kind of love story unfolding on the Richland Players stage these days.

It's called Almost, Maine and it opens Jan. 14 at The Players Theatre in Richland.

Instead of a dark and stormy night inside a spooky mansion opening this occasionally tragic love story, it'll be a cold, moonless winter's night in Maine.

As the stars twinkle brightly and the Northern Lights bounce a rainbow of colors across the sky, love is found, lost and confounded in a way that touches the heart, evokes laughter and even inspires hope. It takes place in the remote town of Almost, where ordinary people encounter extraordinary love in all sorts of unexpected places.

"Almost, Maine is eight separate vignettes, all snapshots of people dealing with love (or) coming to grips with their love life," said director Joyce Bean. "I love the idea that we're doing a winter play in winter. The average age (of the characters) is very young, although its theme is universal."

Bean also said four of the cast members are new to the Players stage, one of whom is Kristin Lerch, who describes Almost, Maine as a dramedy.

"It's a realistic look at poignant ideas, done through different stories that all have one central theme with a touch of surrealism," she said.

Actor James Callaghan said the play is more fun than going to the movies.

"Who would you rather see? Jude Law or James Callaghan?" he quipped. "After the show you can talk, even touch our actors. You can even get autographs."

But actor Ryan Clements makes a bolder statement about his role in the show, saying he "hopes he will be able to live it out on stage with the same blatant honesty that is present in the script."

And if you pay close attention to the dialogue spoken by each character, then you'll hear each one say, "Jeezum Crow." Though there's no real explanation as to what it means, in New England, it's a less offensive way to take the Lord's name in vain.

The scenes are set a bit more unusually than any other play The Players have done in the past, Bean added.

"Most of the scenes are set with music, mood and lighting, and take place outdoors at night," she said.

So if you're looking for theater with a different color, then Almost, Maine might be for you.

"People should come see this play," Lerch said. "It's fun, it's lighthearted, you'll leave feeling happy, and it will warm you up on a cold winter's night."

Other cast members include Mallory Anderson, Carol Bushbaker, Robbie Heegel, Lindsay Johnston and Brad Steiner.

Showtime is 8 p.m. Jan. 14-15, 21-22, 28-29 with a 2 p.m. matinee Jan. 23. Tickets are $12 adults, $10 students and senior citizens. Tickets at the theater box office in The Parkway in Richland.

*Dori O'Neal: 582-1514;