Review: ‘Almost, Maine’ at Chautauqua Playhouse

Almost, Maine: Fri 8pm, Sat 8pm, Sun 2pm; Through 3/1; $21-$25; Chautauqua Playhouse, 5325 Engle Rd., Carmichael; (916)489-7529;
Rated 4.0

Playwright John Cariani is very direct with his instructions for actors and directors in his notes for Almost, Maine: “This play is almost bad. It toes the line. Don’t let it be bad. Make it good. Great, even.”

Chautauqua Playhouse’s production of the play confidently stays on the “good” side of that line.

New romances come to life, old flames die out, an unlikely pair realize their friendship may run deeper than they’re ready for—all of these vignettes unfold in the almost-town of Almost, Maine. The entire cast excels at bringing the diverse group of characters to life, grounding some of the more magical scenes in authentic emotion.

One notable moment at the start of Act Two with astronomy nerd Pete (Terry Randolph) happens wordlessly, and yet just the expression on Randolph’s face says volumes.

Considering the technical aspects, much is made of the small space available. The set is simple, but there is clear care put into the small details of the house and backdrop of a winter sky. The lighting design is fantastic, painting the “sky” and stage in tones of blue and purple that add to the play’s overall dreaminess.

A collection of love stories colored by moments of joy, laughter and devastation, all taking place underneath the shifting hues of the Northern Lights, the play is sweet but not saccharine, cute but not cloying. If you take a trip to see Almost, Maine, you may fall in love, too.