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Theatre South 'Almost' nails it


October 16, 2014

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    I have to give kudos to Theatre South for taking on a challenge like Almost, Maine. The subject matter of the play is cute and fluffy: it’s like the movie Valentine’s Day and is, primarily, about people falling in and out of love over the course of a single night through a series of vignettes. The script, though, is a hard one to pull off well. Almost is a place where wordplay and metaphor become concrete realities. A heart can be physically broken and carried around in a bag; people literally hit the ground when they fall in love. It’s magic, of a sort, but it’s the kind of magic that can become cheesy or overly cute very easily.The cast almost manages to sell this world believably—almost, but maybe not quite.

    But don’t get me wrong: the show is cute and fun to watch, and laugh-out-loud funny at the best moments. The cast and crew make the best of a small, intimate performance space and a minimalist set, making good use of the lecture hall’s projector (and a cranked-up air-conditioning unit) to bring a cold winter’s night under the Northern Lights right into the venue.

    The actors move at a quick clip through the vignettes and certainly can’t be accused of lacking energy: in fact, some of them might have a little too much, making lines hard to understand with the speed and intensity of the delivery. The biggest criticism I came away with was that the cast didn’t seem to believe in the impossibilities of Almost. Their reactions ranged from halfhearted incredulity to nonchalant acceptance, where a commitment to an extreme would have worked better in a show of this kind. It’s the only sticking point I had with Ibiwumi Owolabi’s directing choices, which were otherwise quite good.

    The show is decently acted all throughout, but the performers who threw themselves most wholeheartedly into their scenes were Michael Conner and Rebecca Frost. The third vignette between the two -- an encounter between two former flames in a diner -- is palpably awkward, sweet and wrenching all at once, and they carry it off very well. Frost is particularly fun watch, fully committed to each role no matter how ridiculous the character. Conner too takes the absurdity in stride, convincing and funny in almost all of his scenes.

    Connect saw Almost, Maine as the cast’s final dress rehearsal. With an audience to energize the performers and to laugh at the visual gags, the cast is sure to turn in a stronger performance and deliver a thoroughly enjoyable night. It’s a quick and sweet pick-me-up during the midterm season and well worth the hour spent to watch it. Head over to Sanford Hall, room 1002, tonight at 7 p.m. for the performance, or catch it tomorrow or Saturday evening.

    And for the members of Theatre South: Break a leg on your opening night tonight!


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