Repost from Bridgette Redman for Encore Michigan February 19, 2018
SPRINGFIELD, Mich.–Some things are not exactly, quite…there. You know you feel something. Or you know you are close to arriving somewhere. You’re just not quite there.
And in a series of quirky and sweet sketches at What a Do theater, the ensemble of nine actors take you right up to the precipice and then leave you to take the final step in a very satisfying way. It’s almost, more specifically, Almost, Maine.
Directed by Randy Wolfe, the show takes a look at different aspects of love. There is newfound love, old love, lost love, broken hearts, and just a dash of magic.
It’s not the kind of show you want to take too literally, because, really—love itself rarely lends itself to being literal. Instead, this ensemble, with the help of a crew committed to carrying out Wolfe’s vision, invites you into a world where you never know quite what to expect next. There’s a bit of whimsy, a bit of magic, and more than a dash of sweetness and hope.
It’s tasty fare at a time when so much of the headlines are filled with bitter pills.
Each of the ensemble brings something to their scenes. They start with the script, but Wolfe makes sure they know the important part of their scene is the way they relate to each other, the way they build the relationship. He also makes sure that in each scene, they build to a point of discovery.
What a Do has one of the best lighting rigs in the area and Samantha Snow, who has done many shows there, knows just how to use it to bring out the magical elements of each story. This is especially shown in one of the early sketches with Grace Marengo and Christian Perez. Marengo’s character, Glory, is wanting to see the Northern Lights, and Snow makes sure that they arrive with perfect timing. Marengo and Perez play the scene with a great deal of beauty and innocence and they make the most of the scenic support that Snow gives them. Marengo presents a heart-breaking (literally) tale with such charisma that she gives Perez lots of reasons for his character to do what he does.
Most of the actors show up in two of the eleven scenes, with the exception of Greg Reitsma, who plays four roles, and brings something new to each one of the characters. He does a great job of differentiating between each one. He’s especially enjoyable to watch in his scene with Bill Sutherland. The two play masculine, outdoorsy types who have had rough luck on dates lately. They have a great rhythm with each other, starting the scene with great energy and comraderie. They both bring highly authentic interpretations to a delightful, amusing scene.
In both of Jamelah Earl’s scenes, she plays a woman who is questioning the choices she’s made in life. As Marvalyn, she meets someone who says he never experiences pain. This part, Steve, is played by Perez who perfectly captures Steve’s child-like naiveite. It brings Earl’s world-weariness into sharp contrast, inviting the audience to read between the lines of her life. She also does an excellent job late in the play as Hope, keeping up a frenetic pace as she tells her life story, oblivious to her surroundings.
The show runs one more weekend, and it is the perfect antidote for anyone tempted to give in to cynicism. It’s a night of love stories, love stories that are as individual and quirky and unique as the love stories that each and every one of us experience.