Raw storytelling latest Seabury theater work

Kimberly Sieberg (left) and Maxwell Tramotin in “Prolouge.” Peter Swanzy photo

What is a story? If someone tells a story at a party, there is frequently no framework — not always a clear beginning, middle, conflict, resolution and epilogue. The storyteller might tangentially add in how wonderful the food was, what you should order and where to park. That party story is “organic” — it develops in the moment.

Unlike most plays, “Almost, Maine,” which opens at Seabury Hall in Makawao next weekend, is more raw storytelling than it is a traditional play.

The vignettes of “Almost Maine” each feature two or three characters that do not appear again in other scenes. The reason the same characters never return is that all of the vignettes are taking place during the exact same time.

It’s a winter’s night at around 9 p.m. on a Friday in the small town of “Almost, Maine,” as pathos, passion, humor and romance play out in their many variations. In the prologue, a young couple declares their love for each other. Ginette (Kimberly Sieberg) says it first; and her beau, Peter (Maxwell Tramontin), takes a little too long to concur. The brief predicament foreshadows what is to come in the following vignettes — couples break up, make up, try to break up, discover that they no longer love each other and find new love.

“I think John Cariani (the playwright) wanted there to be a sense that there were all of these moments about the challenges of love happening at the same time, in a sort of parallel universe of romance at 8:50 p.m. on a Friday. He called it ‘a magical moment which all occurs at the same time.’ I think he is making a statement about how common all of these situations are, and that some of them might be occurring in real time, concurrently,” said “Almost, Maine” Director Sally Sefton.

Carver Glomb (left) and Aryana Johnson in “Where it Went.” Peter Swanzy photo

I asked Sefton how she discovered and why she chose “Almost, Maine.”

“Every year, I become nearly frantic as I search for what I consider a good play to produce for our audiences at Seabury Hall. The criteria for what makes a good play has to do with the quality of the writing — first and foremost,” she explained. “I read ‘Almost, Maine’ and I was struck by the poetry of the characters who are dealing with love, loss and the search for human connection. Every vignette is filled with magic and struggle. Every character we meet is simple, yet utterly vulnerable.”

Sefton has a knack of finding under-produced significant plays for the Seabury students, most recently with “Dancing at Lughnasa” and “These Shining Lives.” She shed a light on what she looks for each season.

“I want the students to taste the words and create the characters of very skilled writers. This play has a variety of roles for students, all requiring authenticity and vulnerability, and since I know they are all fascinated by romance, I thought this had something challenging and familiar for them,” she shared.

“I try to find plays that make the students stretch — both as performers as well as thinkers. I also try to get the students thinking about the larger world, and ideas about what we can do to improve the world a little. That is what we are called to do as artists,” continued Sefton.

Tahiti Cabrinha (left) and Carver Glomb in “Seeing the Thing.” Peter Swanzy photo

With the Valentine’s weekend at hand, this romantic comedy-drama would seem a perfect seasonal fit.

“I love the poetry in the characters. Each story is so familiar and sometimes a little painful to anyone who has ever been under the spell of romantic love. The writing is clever, weaving words and literal metaphors — ‘a broken heart in a bag, giant bags of returned love, a lost shoe’ — into moments of palpable struggle between those trying to find their way back to love,” shared Sefton on the romance of “Maine.”

I asked if she had a favorite vignette.

“Every night I will declare, in my head, as I am rehearsing one of the scenes ‘This one is my favorite! This one feels the most universal and true!’ I do it with each scene. They are all poetry and struggle. They are all touching and hilarious in ways that make you cringe and laugh at the same moment. Cariani describes it as ‘a midwinter night’s dream or a really funny, but really sad romance which sums up romantic love in all of its convolutions.’ “

• Seabury Hall Performing Arts presents “Almost, Maine” by John Cariani, directed by Sally Sefton. Performances are at 7 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, Feb. 22 through March 2, and 3 p.m. Sunday, March 3 at the ‘A’ali’ikuhonua Creative Arts Center on the Seabury Hall campus in Makawao. Tickets are $12 for adults, $10 for seniors and $5 for students. For more information or to purchase tickets online, visit www.seaburyhall.org.

Taylor-Ann Takitani (left) and Zachary Kubo in “Getting it Back.” Peter Swanzy photo

This weekend

Comedian and actor George Lopez returns to Maui with “The Wall World Tour.” Recently seen in the HBO comedy special of the same title, in addition to many film and television projects, Lopez is one of the top touring comedians in America.

• Performance is at 8 p.m. Sunday in Castle Theater at the Maui Arts & Cultural Center in Kahului. Tickets are $49, $59, $79 and $99. For more information or to purchase tickets, visit the box office, call 242-7469 or order online at www.mauiarts.org. This performance contains adult content and is not appropriate for children.

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Join Filipino comedian Edwin San Juan for a Valentine’s Day weekend performance. Named Best Comedian on the Las Vegas Strip in 2015 by Las Vegas Weekly, San Juan is the resident headliner of the Las Vegas LIVE Comedy Club at Planet Hollywood Casino. Joining San Juan on the bill is Jose Dynamite along with many of Maui’s best comics.

Jacob Jonas the Company holds a master class as well as performs at the MACC later this month. Minh Tran photo

• Performance is at 7:30 p.m. Friday in the McCoy Studio Theater at the MACC. Tickets are $20 in advance and $25 at the door (plus applicable fees). To purchase tickets, visit the box office, call 242-7469 or order online at www.mauiarts .org.

Upcoming

Tickets are on sale now for Maui Academy of Performing Arts’ annual Spring Gala 2019, a fundraiser for MAPA’s youth performing arts programs. This year’s theme is “Toast to Tinseltown,” with each of the 20 tables uniquely decorated to celebrate a different Hollywood movie.

Guests are invited to dress as their favorite star of the silver screen or character from a film.

In addition to drinks, dinner, dessert and entertainment, guests will mingle with actors dressed as famous Hollywood stars like Marilyn Monroe, James Dean, Clark Gable and Shirley Temple.

• The Spring Gala 2019 takes place at 6:30 p.m. Friday, March 8 at the King Kamehameha Golf Club in Waikapu. Tickets are $150 per person and includes dinner and two drinks. This is a 21 and older event. To purchase tickets, call 244-8760 or go online to www.mauiacademy.org/spring-gala-2019.

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The MACC presents Jacob Jonas the Company. Led by its 26-year-old namesake, and named by Dance Magazine as one of the “25 companies to watch” in 2018, Jacob Jonas the Company will perform a unique mix of contemporary ballet, break-dance and acrobatic movement that creates a vivid immediacy to its audience.

Additionally, Jonas will be conducting a master class from 5 to 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 27 in Omori A studio at the MACC. There is a $10 registration fee for this class and students may register through the MACC website.

• Performance is at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 28 in Castle Theater at the MACC. Tickets are $35 and $45, with half price tickets for ages 12 and younger (plus applicable fees). For more information or to purchase tickets, visit the box office, call 242-7469 or order online at www.mauiarts.org.

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