It's been compared to a cross between Thornton Wilder and "The Twilight Zone," with a touch of "Brigadoon" added into the mix.
"Almost, Maine" is one of the most popular plays for regional theaters around the country. In fact, Kelly Woodland, who's directing the new production at Island Players, said "Almost, Maine" has become the most often-produced plays for high school theaters in North America.
The Island Players production opens Thursday. "It's perfectly timed," Woodland said. "It's perfect for Valentine's Day, and it closes on Valentine's Day. It's a very sweet play."
It's the first play by actor/playwright John Cariani, whom you may know from his role as Julian Beck in "Law & Order."
Never miss a local story.
It's written for four actors -- though the Island players production uses six -- and each takes multiple roles.
The play consists of a series of two-person vignettes, all love stories of one kind or another, all of that which takes place at the same time on one night in a small New England town.
"Every 11 years, this town gets the most spectacular northern lights," Woodland said. "And when the northern lights come, magical things happen."
The lights cast a kind of spell on the Almostians.
Although the vignettes are narratively separate from each other, they're intertwined because the town is tiny. The town is so small, in fact, that it's not even quite right to call it a town, which is why it's known as "Almost." So all the characters are part of the lives of the characters in other vignettes.
There's more to the play than just the stories, though.
"It's very metaphorical," Woodland said. "There are a couple of times when you'll hear the audience comment on a scene two or three minutes into the next one."
The portrait of the small New England town reminds audiences of Wilder's "Our Town," and the magical periodic reawakening is reminiscent of "Brigadoon," Woodland said, although "Almost, Maine" does not disappear in between its northern lights events. The play also shares a sense of allegory with "The Twilight Zone," but without that show's ominous tone.
As popular as "Almost, Maine" is, it has encountered some controversy because one of vignettes deals with two men. But Cariani has pointed out that there's absolutely no indication of a sexual relationship between the two.
Woodland said she has a great cast for this production, and that the lighting design by Patrick Bedell is spectacular.
"I will say that this is one of the few community theater productions in which the technical aspects rival the actors as the star of the show," she said.
Details: Jan. 28-Feb. 14, Island Players, 10009 Gulf Drive, Anna Maria. Show times: 8 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday. 2 p.m. Sunday. Tickets: $20. Information: 941-778-5755, theislandplayers.org.
Marty Clear, features writer/columnist, can be reached at 941-708-7919. Follow twitter.com/martinclear.