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Romance in the New England snow

Co-director of Riverdale High play says her vision of 'Almost, Maine' is like 'Northern Exposure'

REVIEW PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE - Dave (Trenton Morris) helps Rhonda (Isabel Pereira) learn about love.If you’re looking for a romantic getaway, try taking a visit next week to a love-filled, mythical burg.

Playwright John Cariani’s “Almost, Maine,” Riverdale High School’s latest dramatic production, will take audiences north to a place that’s almost a town and is almost in Canada, but not quite. Co-director Clara Hillier says there are about 300 people in this snowy village, and it’s a friendly place.

“It’s a lot like ‘Northern Exposure’ (an early ‘90s TV show set in Alaska),” Hillier says. “That’s exactly what we have in mind.”

In the play, different sets of characters engage in a series of romantic tête-à-têtes, all occuring at the same time: 9 p.m. on a Friday evening during a typical New England winter.

REVIEW PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE - Riverdale High's 'Almost, Maine,' which shows next week in Lake Oswego, is filled with romantic moments, such as this one between Rhonda (Isabel Pereira) and Dave (Trenton Morris).The play will actually take place at 7 p.m. Nov. 9-11, and the curtain will rise at Lakewood Center for the Arts, not at the high school. It’ll just be Oregon cold, of course, but the actors will be bundled up in coats, scarves and knit hats for verisimilitude.

And though each scene has different characters, the audience may see some familiar faces. Co-director Heath Koerschgen says that during tryouts, he and Hillier were overwhelmed with boys but had too few girls, so the actresses doubled up on the female roles. Koerschgen says that’s something a professional thespian might have to do, and he says the students are up to the challenge. He’s proud of his pupils and says his time with them has been rewarding.

“To be able to work with people who are just now discovering (acting) is huge, because it’s part of developing the next generation of actors,” he says. “It’s fun to see them start with a clean slate, and it’s fun to see how they build and discover.”REVIEW PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE - Gayle (Lila Ford) asks Lendall (Logan Bundy) for her love back, but that's not how the scene ends.

He says he’s proud of the confidence that grew in sophomore Trenton Morris after just a year in the Riverdale drama program.

“I love working with Clara and Heath,” Morris says.

He plays Dave in the scene “Seeing the Thing,” where he works to gain admittance into tough girl Rhonda’s house with “one of those stare-at-it-until-you-see-the-thing” paintings. It’s not exactly clear what the subject of the piece is, but it doesn’t really matter. (No spoiler alert here.)

Morris says each scene, like this one, is short but action-packed.

“You get short bursts of time in different scenes, so you get to really experience a whole town in lots of wonderful and not-so-wonderful moments,” he says.REVIEW PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE - Dave (Trenton Morris) aims to show tough girl Rhonda (Isabel Pereira) how he feels about her with an unusual painting.

Isabel Pereira (Rhonda) says she loves the style of the play.

“It always keeps you interested,” says Pereira, who’s been performing in musicals since fourth grade.

Junior Lila Ford agrees that the play definitely possesses a unique approach.

“It deals with unrealistic situations in a very real way,” Ford says.

In one scene, “Getting It Back,” her character, Gayle, asks her boyfriend of 11 years, Lendall, to return her love, and she plans to give him his back as well. She hauls the love around in large bags.

“She gave him all the love that she had and had none left for herself,” Ford says.

That’s not the end of the scene, though.

Sophomore Logan Bundy, who plays Lendall, says he’s gained so much from his time as an actor.

“It helps a lot with public speaking and just being more open to people you don’t know so well,” Bundy says. “So it can raise creativity, spark new ideas.”

Koerschgen says while the actors may be learning and growing, they have a great deal to offer anyone who comes to see the show.

“Some of the talent level these kids have at 17 years old is more than some of the adults I’ve worked with,” he says.
By Jillian Daley
503-636-1281, ext. 109
email: jdaley@lakeoswegoreview.com
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If you go

What: "Almost, Maine"

When: 7 p.m. Nov. 9-11

Where: Lakewood Center for the Arts, 368 S. State St., Lake Oswego

Cost: $10 adults, $7 students and seniors

More information: Visit bit.ly/1Qaa8kr.