Did you ever see a show and feel like writing a postcard at intermission that said “wish you were here” and sending it off to loved ones? Ever feel at the end of a show like you’d taken a special little journey? That’s how I felt with Bus Barn Stage Company’s Almost, Maine this past weekend. In fact, this show was so quaint and so inexplicably special I almost felt like sending off tickets encapsulated in an antique bottle and hurling it from a far off pier for the sea to take to its destiny. It’s that kind of nostalgic magical abandon that is swaddled in the romantic layers of this show that made it so appealing for me.
On the surface Almost, Maine is a handful of short, quirky, fun, fictional vignettes which capture simple, poetic, emotional moments of relationships with humor and genuine sentiment. All aspects of this show exhibit just the right amount of imagination mixed with a perfect amount of identifiable reality. I was fully invested in these characters from the get go to my surprise, given that each cast member plays multiple parts.
There’s a lot of this casting people in multiple parts going around the theatres these days and it usually disappoints me, but within the context of this play it can be justified and overlooked. The characters all know each other for the most part (it’s a small town, you know how it is in small towns) and many of the characters share similarly neurotic attributes and surreal exchanges. Additionally, there are a number of bizarre and somewhat “impossible” occurrences that establish a fanciful realm of expectations, so while we are suspending our belief it is easy for us to include the casting in that suspension. The show almost makes light of the fact that a character is “connected” to another character based on the actor playing them and does so without bringing us out of the moment of the scene. That being said, many of the characters were costumed and acted in a way that made it even easier to forget/ignore the actor and just embrace the character. This is some of my favorite types of world building and what really great theatre does without you even knowing.
This was the first show that I can remember in a long time where the intermission came and I was disappointed (and accidentally audibly so.) It’s not often I omit an “awwww” out loud in the theatre, but there you have it. I was not yet ready for a break after just 45 minutes. I did however enjoy my cup of apple cider during intermission (for the bargain price of a $1 donation) which only added to the warm fuzzies the show had already produced.
Though not a holiday show, it does take place in Winter (and a snowy Eastern Winter at that) and it establishes that “anything is possible” holiday feel immediately. Special attention to the mood lighting made this an even more magical experience, blending the wonder and innocence of childhood and the sardonic wisdom of an adult that’s been through it all. A great choice for this space in the season for those wanting cheer and miracles without redundant traditional December plots.
This great little gem of a show with a fun and talented cast is made even more enjoyable in the intimate Bus Barn Stage setting. An easy 4 out of 5 jewels in the Princess’ review tiara for an affordable and worthwhile escape. Almost Maine plays at the Bus Barn Stage Company in Los Altos through December 18th.