Randy and Chad are sitting down together, pulling pop-tops, swigging beer, crushing cans.
And comparing notes.
“She said she didn’t like the way I smelled,” Chad says. Can his buddy top that?
It turns out Randy can. He was dancing with a woman, dropped her on her face and had to take her to the hospital. She wanted her old boyfriend to take her home, not Randy. So he wins the informal, worst-date-ever competition.
Welcome to “Almost, Maine,” a wintry little place in the cold, frosty North where the elation, heartbreak and poignancy of love plays out in a series of vignettes under the Northern Lights.
The play will open the theater season this week at King’s College in Wilkes-Barre, on a set designed to make audience members feel as if they’re peering through the orb of a snow globe into a remote and rustic place.
Student designer Amy Brown of West Wyoming said she didn’t have to look far for inspiration. “Around here, we’re surrounded by piney woods and mountains.”
The snow-globe effect will enhance the otherworldly qualities playwright John Cariani injected into “Almost, Maine,” director Dave Reynolds said, pointing out something “magical” crops up in every scene.
Here a young wanderer returns, knocking on a door, desperate to finally answer the question a man asked before she left. He’s been waiting a long time to hear her answer to his marriage proposal, and while his hope has diminished, his appearance has changed as well.
Then there’s all the stumbling, the collapsing, the strange force that sends Chad sprawling. He can’t help it, he tells Randy. Literally, he’s falling in love — with Randy.
The way the script is written, Reynolds said during an early rehearsal, Chad and Randy’s love could be romantic or platonic.
“It’s pretty vague,” agreed Jarred Stagen, who portrays Chad, as he and Kyle McCormack, who portrays Randy, discussed how they wanted to play it.
All the characters in Cariani’s play have a simple, small-town honesty, Reynolds said. “They remind me of ‘Northern Exposure,’ but they’re not as quirky.”
• • •
Theater-goers will find another set of unusual characters at Wilkes University this weekend, where student thespians are bringing “The Curious Savage” to the stage.
Here, one Ethel Savage has inherited millions from his late husband, but her stepchildren want the money for themselves — and Ethel in a sanitarium.
“There are bars on the windows and a buzzer that tells them when it’s time to go to dinner and to their rooms at night,” director Naomi Baker said. Still, “this particular sanitarium does appear to be a good place to live, especially in the wing they are putting Ethel in. The patients are not dangerous, so they have quite a bit of freedom.”
Despite their eccentricities — one patient dotes on a doll as if it were a living child, another has “given up” electricity, a third believes he is horribly scarred — they exhibit more kindness and compassion than Ethel’s stepchildren.
“The play is charming,” Baker said. “I find it charming and uplifting, and all of it is fairly funny. When you think about it, it’s more comedy than social commentary.”
Student Janel Naro portrays Ethel with aplomb, the director said. “Janel has a soft and gentle quality to her. She brings that naturally to the part. Ethel is also a very peppy, spry and saucy woman.”