EARLY – The fictional town of Almost, Maine has come to life on the stage at Early High School.

That’s the name of the play – “Almost, Maine,” based in the small fictional town – the Early High School theatre department is performing for its fall production. The play, directed by Early High School theatre teacher Amber Jones, opens at 7 p.m. Thursday night, Nov. 8, and the second and final performance will be at 7 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 10

“Almost, Maine,” by playwright John Cariani, is a different kind of play. It’s a series of eight cleverly written, loosely connected vignettes, each featuring a male and female lead, who are in various stages of relationships. Each scene features contrasts of subtle comedy and angst, pain and tenderness, loss and love. Each scene doesn’t necessarily have a tied-in-a-bow, happily-ever-after ending.

The comedy isn’t knee-slapping, in-your-face but is derived from dialogue that is, at times, gently absurd but often realistic, with trivial interactions sandwiched within a more probing theme. While the script isn’t complicated, you have to pay attention to catch all of the nuances.

And for most who see the play, there is likely an element of each scene and character that evokes a “been there” memory.

It’s a “well rounded show” the audience can relate to, stage manager Rae Bynum said. She said she’s seen the actors not only growing their characters, but growing themselves as people.

Jones, who also teaches freshman English, has been at Early High School for 2 ½ years.

 “I’ve been so amazed by them,” Jones said of the cast.

“One thing that I always pride myself on, as a fine arts teacher, is that we’re not just learning about acting,” Jones said. “We’re not just learning about the stage. We’re learning skills that are going to help us for the rest of their lives, and I just felt like this was a show that grips the heart, that they can carry lessons from for the rest of their lives.”

Cast and crew members, reflecting the sense of family, camaraderie, and affection that typically binds theatre and other fine arts groups, gave explanations of the show and their experiences that were both comical and insightful.

“It’s a really interesting production, and it’s funny and it’s sad, heartfelt, all at the same time,” sophomore cast member Skylar Moore said.

Senior cast member Zane Hobson said his scene with junior Megan Bynum shows that “love doesn’t always work out … it’s relatable because we’ve all been there.”

The play is also unusual in that it allows cast members to be part of the audience when they’re not on stage, so they can enjoy watching their fellow cast members perform in the vignettes.

“This is the first time we’ve actually got to do that,” junior Madison Green said. “Usually we’re behind the curtain, preparing for the next thing, but we can see our friends perform in it.”

Moore said it’s been “super enjoyable” to watch the rest of the cast perform. “The writing is so good, the actors are great,” he said.

Senior Brianna Brown said her role in “Almost, Maine” has been her largest role. It was “a little difficult” to learn her lines, but her cast mates brought “positivity and motivation … everyone else has really helped me,” Brown said.

Moore said the scenes are enjoyable and fun to read. “I think that definitely adds to the easiness of learning, especially with this great theatre family,” Moore said. “It’s great to just be able to see all these smiling faces.”

Freshman Sidney Becktold said since there is no lead character, “we were all able to spread our lines evenly over the entire play. That also helped us learn our lines.”

Becktold said she’s enjoyed watching cast members develop their acting skills, “especially in the last two weeks, because that’s when everyone starts to really dive deep into their character.” 

Senior Paetra Davis said cast and crew have enjoyed the production because “one, it’s relatable, and two, we’ve all helped each other learn our lines, get to know each other, so really we’ve become a family because of this show.”

In one of the more comedic scenes, a frustrated character portrayed by Davis bops freshman Carson Hill’s character in the head with an ironing board. Hill evoked laughter when he said even though he knows it’s coming, it is still a surprise when it happens.

“He’s sitting down, and I’m short anyway, so I have to swing it over his shoulders to hit him in the head,” Davis said.

The theatre department is a recent addition at Early High School, and this year’s class is the largest it’s been, Hobson said. “This is our year to put our best foot forward,” Hobson said.

He said he thinks the Early cast is as capable as anyone of putting on “a five-star show.”

While Jones clearly appreciates her students, “Almost, Maine" cast and crews reciprocated. “She has helped ups put this whole thing together, and she has put blood, sweat and tears into this,” crew member Hayden Dickey said.

“She’s always been the best … she puts her heart and soul into theatre,” Green said.