“A whimsical approach to the joys and perils of romance. Magical happenings bloom beneath the snowdrifts. Almost, Maine explores the thunderclap of love and the scorched earth that sometimes follows.” The New York Times, Jan. 2006

West Liberty University Hilltop Players next production “Almost, Maine” will be directed by theater majors, Maura Reiff, Martinsburg, W.Va. and Jaccob Trifonoff, Steubenville, Ohio. Curtain is at 7:30 p.m., Thursday through Saturday, Feb. 20 – 22 and at 3 p.m., Sunday Feb. 23 in Kelly Theater.

Maura Reiff

Maura Reiff

Jaccob Trifonoff

Jaccob Trifonoff

Written by John Cariani, the play begins on a cold, clear, moonless night in the middle of winter. But all is not quite what it seems in the remote, mythical town of Almost, Maine. As the northern lights hover in the star-filled sky above, the residents find themselves falling in and out of love in unexpected and often hilarious ways.

The romantic comedy is Reiff and Trifonoff’s first main stage effort at directing.

“We knew the February slot was going to be student-directed, since we were teaching ‘Directing’ this fall and wanted the option of a bigger project this semester for any student who showed real aptitude. We had to wait until the semester ended, to see their class projects in directing, before deciding on what play or plays to do. If we had four student-directors, we would have chosen two comedies and two dramatic one-acts and alternated the evenings, since we want to be responsive to the needs and skills of the students,” explained Director of Theatre Michael Aulick. “Jake and Maura expressed an interest and then we set about trying to determine the production. We still thought about 2 one-acts but finally came around to Almost, Maine as a terribly interesting choice. The show is broken into scenes that are loosely connected but uses actors in multiple roles. As we discussed the project, it became clear that a shared show would push these students farther than two individual one-acts. They had to collaborate on choices, making them defend their ideas more. Analyzing the script, developing the concept and managing a shared cast required more focus and attention.”

Reiff directs the first act of “Almost, Maine,” while Trifonoff directs the second half of the play.

“Though the two acts are directed separately, they had to collaborate ideas to make the play fit both of their visions,” Aulick said.

“One of the most rewarding parts of this job is seeing 18-year-olds blossom into budding young artists who have a voice in the world of theatre. These two have grown so much in the last year that it is almost like they are different people. I am terribly proud of them as people and as student-directors,” he said. Aulick was assisted in his work with the student-directors by Technical Director of Theatre Meta Lasch.

Cast members include Chad Arthur, Kacie Craig, Maggie Dillon, Brady Dunn, Alex Franke, Alexandria Glotfelty, Anna Gross, Jed Shook and Mack Kale.

“Our cast and crew have put their whole heart into every inch of this production,” said Reiff, who has set her sites on theater as a profession. “We encourage everyone to come out and enjoy a love story with very realistic characters. It’s not a fairy tale like Cinderella or a classic like Romeo and Juliet. Its witty and real.”

Richard Deenis is assistant technical director and shop foreman. The crew includes Courtney Baker, Michael Blatze, Geena Diomedi, Carlito Gilchrist, Sara Reed, Spencer Thomas and Morgan Wagner.

For complete ticketing information, please call the Hilltop Players box office at 304.336.8277 or purchase online at brownpapertickets.com.