Nineteen actors, nine love stories at APT starting Oct. 28

Nineteen actors, nine love stories at APT starting Oct. 28
April Wallace

In the fictional, unincorporated town of Almost, Maine, everybody knows everyone else — and they’re all falling in and out of love with each other. Some are even discovering they love somebody they didn’t think they were in love with before.

“The mystery of love looks different to everyone, and we’re exploring the spectrum love can take at Arkansas Public Theatre,” says Brenda Nemec, director of John Cariani’s “Almost, Maine.” “I haven’t seen anything like this play in a long time. I’m hoping it works and hoping that audiences get the story, the whole picture.”

The production features 19 of the townsfolk in vignettes, brief little stories about their various conundrums. It can be cast one of two ways: four people can take a few roles each to cover the full cast of 19 characters, or they can have 19 actors, one for each role. Nemec says she had 38 people audition and could have cast it twice, which was one reason she went the one actor to one role route.

Many of the actors chosen were just in APT’s “Music Man,” and the format, simple costuming and brevity are a welcome change. A typical production might mean asking actors to memorize 10 to 100 pages, but these vignettes are three to 10 pages each, Nemec says.

The combination of spare rehearsals, maybe one or two nights a week, and the few pages to master has encouraged participation by members of the community who have day jobs unrelated to acting, she says.

Robert Mayfield and Mary Maxwell Dispensa are Lendall and Gayle, a couple who have dated each other — and given each other oodles of love — for 11 years. Mayfield enjoys playing the “bad guy” who had yet to propose to his longtime girlfriend and says “Almost, Maine” is full of surprises. (Courtesy Photo/Chad Wigington for APT)

Kevin Barrington, for instance, is a trust compliance analyst, but beginning Oct. 28 he will be Phil in Scene VI of “Almost, Maine,” titled “Where It Went.” In it, Phil and his wife Marci are going through a rough patch.

Barrington expects it could be very relatable, since it can be easy enough to get swept up in work concerns and sometimes forget to manage our personal relationships. Many of the other vignettes might take someone back, recalling the early days of falling in love, he says, but this one is about a difficult phase in a marriage. Phil and Marci talk to and over each other, sometimes listening, sometimes not.

“It’s probably one of my most dramatic roles I’ve ever had on stage,” Barrington says. Most of the show is humorous, but his scene is less so. “Phil is just doing his best to provide for the family and not really paying enough attention to his wife.”

Robert Mayfield has quite a bit of acting experience, but he’s never done a production quite like this. He returned to Arkansas and retired from the travel business a couple of years ago and has been in several plays since, including “Inherit the Wind” and “Our Town.”

Mayfield plays Lendall, who for 11 years has dated Gayle, played by Mary Maxwell Dispensa, without proposing. He enjoys this character, he says, because he gets to be a bit of a bad guy until the end.

“It’s not an ensemble piece, but it feels that way,” Mayfield says. “It’s fun to do, every one of the characters is relatable, and there are some surprises along the way that make the play more interesting.”

Several of the cast members are familiar faces at APT, but a handful are brand new like Ethan Hunt, who is a University of Arkansas student studying supply chain management. Hunt acted in a couple of productions in high school and thought he’d try out for “Almost, Maine,” because a buddy of his was auditioning, too. He plays the role of Steve.

“What defines him most is the inability to feel pain, (a condition called) congenital analgesia,” Hunt says. Steve walks around with two notebooks — one filled with things that might hurt him and one full of things to be scared of. His older brother Rob tells him what to write. “He’s very kind and nice, he doesn’t know how to be mean. Just very sweet, very innocent.”

In a play full of laughs, Hunt says his role is more of a heartfelt one. He likes embodying Steve because it reminds him of one of his favorite characters of all time, Barney from the 1993 film “What’s Eating Gilbert Grape.”

The morning after the first time the full cast rehearsed altogether, Hunt says, “watching the whole show definitely confirmed it was a good choice, it was so much fun. (‘Almost, Maine’) is so silly and corny.

“It made me feel very warm and made me smile through the whole show.”



‘Almost, Maine’

WHEN — 8 p.m. Thursday-Saturday; 2 p.m.; Sunday, Oct. 28-30 and Nov. 3-6

WHERE — Arkansas Public Theatre at the Victory in Rogers

COST — $20-$40

INFO — 631-8988 or

Categories: Cover Story