Transpiring on a wintry Friday evening in the sleepy titular town, excellently envisioned by scenic designer Terry Stump and lighting designer Gina Neuerer, “Almost, Maine” flows as a series of nine vignettes effectively grounded in self-reflection and emotional connection. Cariani’s concept, which should have been conceived as a one-act, is predictably fueled by the universal desire of finding The One, but he astutely avoids the temptation to drown his appealing, relatable characters in melodramatic romanticism or mundane rom-com hijinks.
Cariani’s couples are particularly impactful when vulnerable or attempting a deeper intimacy and understanding. In fact, the Act 1 finale (“Getting It Back”) and Act 2 opening (“They Fall”) typify the play’s engrossing charm. “Getting It Back,” an eye-opening, symbolic look at love measured in bags of varying sizes, likely resonates with any woman who has endured a serious, long-term relationship without a wedding ring to show for it. The feisty Angela Dermer and sensitive Chris Hahn, paired as strongly here as they were last fall portraying Abigail Williams and John Proctor in “The Crucible,” wonderfully explore the frustrated discontent that arises when the end seems near even though a bright future actually looms over the horizon. In a striking role reversal, Hahn, opposite the admirable Josh Smith, is also featured in “They Fall,” a terrific bromance innocently peppered with random chatter encompassing bad hygiene and an impromptu Queen salute that endearingly climaxes with unexpected honesty and funny physical comedy.
Jenna Burnette and Isaac Hollister’s subtle love-at-first-sight compatibility in “This Hurts,” an intriguing account of a young man immune to pain, and Michael Marvin and Becca Sebree’s believably bruised “Where It Went,” a tale of a rocky marriage, are equally sharp. Amanda Hanisch, John Ray, costumer Kathleen Hotmer and the evocative strains of composer Julian Fleisher also contribute to the success of this perfect date night outing.
“Almost, Maine” continues through March 3 in Blair Hall Theatre, Building 2, at Sinclair Community College, 444 W. Third St. Performances are Thursday at 7 p.m. and Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. Act One: 50 minutes; Act Two: 45 minutes. Tickets are $10-$15 with the exception of the Downtown Dayton Thursday Night performance which is an additional $5 and includes pre-show appetizers and cash bar. For tickets or more information, call (937) 512-2808 or visit www.sinclair.edu/tickets.