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“Almost, Maine” at the Dio is simply delightful (review) February 16, 2014

Posted by ronannarbor in Entertainment, Theatre.

In about two hours, 4 actors play 19 characters in 9 scenes that all take place at 9:00 at night in a frozen Maine town called Almost (where it almost got a name, but remains just a numbered territory since nobody quite bothered to follow through). That is a great setup for what is, in essence, 9 short stories that cover the range of interpersonal relationships – from first meeting, to breakup, to divorce, to finding true love.

The ensemble cast play off of each other well. Matt Berdahl, Justin Michael Dietzel, Ann Dilworth, and Vanessa Sawson each get their moments to shine both individually and together in combination (and serve dessert at intermission!) Some of the characters are showier than others, but each actor finds plenty of variation in playing different people in very different situations.

None of the scenes last much longer than ten minutes, and cover a lot of territory in that time — from the meaning of misspelled tattoos, to a missing shoe that represents far more than that. These are vignettes that will leave you laughing, cringing, thinking, and smiling. You will have your own favorite scenes, and there’s a little bit here for everyone.

There’s also a nifty technical effect that will have you asking lighting designer Matthew Tomich how he did it.

Directed at just the right pace by Steve DeBruyne, the evening moves along swiftly and more than once you’ll find yourself thinking “this is just delightful” as you go along. Writer John Cariani has a clear playwriting voice, and he has something to say about people, quirks and all. The show also has plenty of visual things going on and DeBruyne makes good use of the stage space at the Dio. One of my favorite visuals included a couple on the verge of having a big night removing their clothing – layer, after layer, after layer, after layer…after layer.

This is an evening of theater as savory as Chef Jarod’s pre-show meal. Its filling comfort food for both the soul and the brain. You can go to New York City and see the current off-broadway revival there, or you can take a much shorter (and prettier) trip up to Pinckney and see it in your own backyard.

Highly Recommended.

Almost, Maine continues at the Dio through March 2nd. Tickets online at diotheatre.com or phone at (517)672-6009

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