The curtain didn’t go up at the start of UR TOOP’s “Almost Maine” Saturday night—because there was no curtain.
Instead, its performance at the Drama House provided an intimate setting where the audience sat feet away from the performers on mismatched chairs and couches.
“TOOP fills an important role—of providing a theater outlet that is low-pressure, but still commits itself to putting on an enjoyable show,” junior and TOOP actor Ben Frazer said. “This show in particular was light-hearted and cute, and I think for actors and audience alike it was a refreshing opportunity to lose oneself in the humor and the absurdity of a show that doesn’t profess to be much else.”
The play focuses on snippets of the lives of residents of the small fictional town of Almost, Maine. The tag line,“It’s love, but not quite,” reflects not only the title, but the intricate nature of the play.
“This show is very cute by nature,” junior and director Meredith Watson said, discussing what struggles she faced putting on the show. “But if you lean into that too much it can get very campy and I didn’t want it to pull too campy because that obviously turns a lot of people off. It was embracing the simplicity of the production […] Enjoying the magical realism of it without thinking too hard or trying to explain it too much.”
“Almost Maine” was written by John Cariani. It is the first play that Watson has directed in her three years in TOOP.
The decision to play “Almost, Maine” was inspired Watson’s seeing a performance of it at Geva Theater.
“I thought it was absolutely beautiful,” Watson said. “It’s always been in the back of my mind as something I’d like to be involved in. Little did I know I’d be directing it.”
Watson’s direction focused on the love aspect of the play. She followed Geva’s path in having two stagehands have a romance that develops throughout the play, but made it more concise and decreased the conflict to avoid any distractions from the other stories. Additionally, she chose to make the romance develop between two women stagehands.
“I didn’t feel that there was enough representation there already so I kind of I wanted to throw that into the mix,” she said.
Additionally, Watson had musical interludes produced independently by Eastman student Marc Laroussini.
“The play provides a really interesting way to explore love and romance,” senior and TOOP actress Murie Gillette. “The smaller vignette-style scenes is perfect for TOOP, where everyone brings unique talents to the group.”
TOOP is completely donation based, offering its shows for free to any and all who want to watch their shows.
“Especially when things cost money, we don’t have a lot of money or time to devote to enriching our lives with art,” Watson said. “It can be really tricky when we’re trying to allocate our funds to supporting ourselves. TOOP’s mission is to make really good quality theater that came about from the labor of students and make it very accessible for students so they can get exposure to some really classic plays, plays they haven’t heard of before.”