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Purple Rose Theatre Ponders Life's Questions in Jeff Daniels' Comedy 'The Meaning of Almost Everything'

The 15th play penned by theater founder and Hollywood actor Jeff Daniels will open on Jan. 18.

The Purple Rose Theatre (PRTC) is stepping outside of its comfort zone in a departure from the more dramatic shows of its 2012 season with the world premiere of The Meaning of Almost Everything.

The show is the 13th script written by Chelsea resident and actor Jeff Daniels, and features PRTC veteran actors Michael Brian Ogden and Matthew Gwynn.

"This show is a lesson in absurdity," director Guy Sanville said. "It's funny, it's poignant, and it connects with you on a different level."

The Meaning of Almost Everything is one of Daniels’ most personal shows to date, Sanville said. The story follows two men, “A” and “B,” who exist in an undefined place and time, a place of safety and comfort, but also a place where nothing happens. One man wants to remain. The other isn’t so sure. Through their feats of daring — and sometimes cowardice — they stumble through the darkness to find the big answers to life’s big questions.

"This is unlike anything we've done before," Sanville said. "The first time I read the script, I didn't know what to think. I was upset with some of the things it said. Then, I read it aloud with another actor and found it to have some brutal truths in it that might be hard for some people to hear."

The vagueness of the circumstances between the two characters has been a challenge to Sanville and the actors, but in a good way.

"No one really knows where the story is taking place," Sanville said. "The challenge has been to try and engage the story in a truthful way. I doubt two people will walk out (of the theater) with the same interpretation of what happened."

Ogden agrees, stating that one challenge of a minimalist show is keeping the plot moving seamlessly.

There's no extra characters, and no intermission in the show, he said.

"It's just Matt and I for 80 to 90 minutes on stage. The biggest concern for me is, 'Are we interesting enough?'" Ogden said.

Typically in a realism script, actors are given a lot of clues to their characters, according to Ogden.

"In this show, we don't know who these characters are or why they are together," he said. "It taxes your imagination, but to get through it at the end of the day, it feels good."

Gwynn, a native of Farmington, said he's enjoyed the flexibility of interpreting Daniels' script with the help of Sanville and the other Purple Rose members.

"It's been a real ride," he said. "There's a challenge to figure out this moment in time we've created on stage."

Despite the challenges, Sanville said the play's message will resonate with all audience members.

"Have you ever had a perfect moment in your life that you wished would never end?” Sanville asked. “That’s what this show is about. Rather than face life, with all the hate and bigotry in the world, one man decides to go another way, and would rather remain trapped in a perfect moment in time.”

The Meaning of Almost Everything will have a nine-week engagement from Jan. 10 through March 9. Eight low-priced previews will be performed Jan. 10-17, with opening night on Jan. 18.

Regular performances for the duration of the run are Wednesdays through Saturdays at 8 p.m., with Wednesday and Saturday matinees at 3 p.m. and Sunday matinees at 2 p.m. Additional Thursday matinees will be held at 3 p.m.

For more information, visit http://www.purplerosetheatre.org/.

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