Encore Michigan

Love is in the air in ‘Almost Maine’ at Snug Theatre

Review January 26, 2019 Paula Bradley

MARINE CITY, Mich.–February 14 is approaching, and love is in the air! Stories of love can usually make us smile, whether the romance is flowery, passionate, gentle, unrequited, or awkward. Almost, Maine is a funny and heartwarming look at those awkward situations people might find themselves in when love comes—and when it goes.

The Snug stage in Marine City is well suited for this production, which comprises a series of nine vignettes showing hits and misses in affairs of the heart. Brittany Smith and Kathy Vertin direct a cast of four actors (Ian Francis, Courtney Olsen, Anson Pavlov and Danielle Wright) who arrange themselves into different combinations of couples from the “town”—too small to be officially organized as such—of Almost, Maine, where the northern lights usher the departed to heaven, and folks can quite literally fall down in love.

The strength of Almost, Maine is the way it turns awkward, unexpected situations into chuckles throughout the show. It pokes fun, in a lighthearted way, at the tendency of people in nervous moments to talk too much, to say almost nothing, or to say something and then immediately regret it. Let’s face it, we’ve all been there. (“Do I keep talking? He’s not saying anything. Does he want me to shut up?”) The cast, especially Olsen, artfully balances nonstop chatter with uncomfortable silence or clumsy interruptions. The funny awkwardness is palpable.

Adding to the humor are some quirky happenings that do not seem to surprise the residents of Almost, like serendipitous tattoo mishaps, items falling from the sky, broken hearts being carted around like personal effects, and love being quantified into physical stuff. Maybe it’s a result of the northern lights, but those weird moments are made more enjoyable by the fact that first time viewers will not predict them. There are also instances of regional phrases and pronunciation sprinkled subtly throughout that viewers may notice.

There is minimal reliance on props or backdrops in this production; an entry door, a few benches, small tables and chairs make transitions from one vignette to the next a simple affair, and simple lighting effects convey the northern lights when needed. The few props hold real meaning in each situation.

Language is inoffensive, and offstage liaisons are hinted at, making this show a good fit for teenagers through adult, and a fun choice for a date night. Almost, Maine offers a lighthearted, humorous look at the awkward side of love. It is playing at The Snug Theatre in Marine City through February 17, 2019.

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Week of 8/8/2022

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