By Meg Sutton
Sock ‘n’ Buskin Theatre Company, Canada’s oldest student-run theatre company, is coming back to the Glebe. After the sold-out production of The Elephant Man graced Glebe-St. James United Church last year, the company is back with a new production sure to pull and delight heart strings.
Almost, Maine, written by John Cariani, follows nine different love stories taking place in the same town at the same time. However, every story is unique and love doesn’t come as easy for some.
Egos are bruised and hearts are broken, as love is lost and found; but the bruises can heal, and the hearts can be mended – almost.
Almost, Maine explores the mysteries and the complicated nature of the human heart. “This show is all about real people and their relationships. It’s big by being small. No one is a crazy character, they’re all real,” said director Sarah Ashton, a third year Carleton student.
Ashton explained how Almost, Maine is a show about community and the relationships between community members. It has a strong sense of being there for your neighbours and wanting what’s best for them. “Love is complicated, which is why I want this version of Almost, Maine to be simple, so that the audience can focus on the story. I don’t plan on having any flashy sets, crazy costumes or lighting techniques. I want everything to be simple. I want the audience to walk away talking about the performance that the actors put on,” she said.
Sock ‘n’ Buskin is based out of the Carleton University community, so many students live and work in the Glebe. In fact, Ashton and one of her stage managers work at GNAG in the Glebe Community Centre.
This production, though, will go on at Glebe-St. James United Church like last year. “It is an accessible venue,” said artistic director Christian Giansante. “It provides a large space smack dab in the middle of our intended audience.”
Giansante also commented on how helpful the church has been. “Glebe- St. James has been wonderful in accommodating our sets and props, as well as inviting their community members to the production,” he said.
This is important because one of the central themes of the show revolves around a bench. A certain couple meets on the bench and their interaction percolates throughout the other relationship storylines.
As the main theme of Almost, Maine is love, it also illustrates how things can change in a heartbeat. That is what Ashton uses to connect the nine otherwise unconnected stories.
Most of the characters are only in one 10–15 minute scene, and although their appearance is brief, the audience gets a sense of the characters’ emotions and how their love is affecting them.
“I like to describe this play as an album of love songs,” said Ashton. “Once one scene is done you move on to the next and you feel a whole different kind of love.”
At the end, it is clear that this play is about normal people, and there is no real fantasy or magic.
“It’s just people and feelings. Like in life, Almost, Maine offers no easy answers, but instead gives the audience the chance to connect and empathize with the characters. Hopefully, the audience will see themselves in at least one of these characters,” said Ashton. “The end of a scene is never the end of the story, it’s more like the beginning of a new chapter because love never really ends, it just changes.”
With such a complex yet simple story, the cast and crew of Almost, Maine has been hard at work since early October. Natascha Sekerinski, one of the stage managers of the production, described the experience as amazing but busy. “The challenge is that our actors are playing everyday people. It’s like that saying, that you can act a character, but playing yourself is the real challenge,” she said.
However, putting students on stage is not a new concept for Sock ‘n’ Buskin. The company has been operating for 75 years, and it continues to produce at least four or five shows a season (or in their case, a school year.)
Ashton said not to let their ages fool you, though. “The cast is everything I could’ve wanted from a group of actors. They are professional, talented and, most importantly, full of life.”
Almost, Maine will take place on January 18, 19, 25 and 26 at Glebe-St. James Church. Tickets can be purchased online or at the door, and the company accepts reservations and will try to accommodate you as much as possible.
If you can’t make it out this time, Agatha Christie’s The Mousetrap is the company’s next show of their 75th season. Bringing Victorian England to the Kalish Mital Theatre at Carleton, the play is a classic murder mystery with a twist. Come see it February 1, 2, 3, 8 and 9.
Meg Sutton is a fourth year Journalism student at Carleton University and a Sock ‘n’ Buskin executive.