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Love American Style -- Almost, Maine - Hoboken, NJ

By Adam F. Cohen

originally published: 04/18/2015

Love American Style -- Almost, Maine - Hoboken, NJ

Love, amour, distance, commitment, hope, loss, pain – these are the elements at play in Hudson Theater Ensemble’s charming production of John Cariani’s “Almost, Maine.”
Set in the not quite a town or on a map area of Almost, Maine, the show is a series of nine scenes about love.  Powered by a charming cast and graceful direction from Laurie Brongo, the play mixes whimsy, laughter, and heart.  
The offbeat, adorable residents -- fall in and out of love one enchanted Friday night as the Northern Lights crosses, exchanging unsolicited kisses, awkward confessions and a yearning for connection. Their brief stories are laced with magic realism, uncanny coincidences, metaphors taken literally and idioms come to life.  Some work better than others but all are short and (bitter)sweet.  This is a world beyond Tinder, OKCupid, or Match where people carry their broken hearts in bags and deliver bulging sacks of love.
Cariana’s light touch is evident in scenes like “They Fell” in which a bromance turns unexpectedly complete with physical falling for one another.  Victor Andres and Doug Schneider deftly handle the physicality and uncertainty of a new possibility.  A bit more heavy handed is “Where it Went” which tackles a marriage that goes south despite a wife (Laura DiCerto) trying to bring romance to the spot of a first kiss.
Victor Andres’ malleable facial expressions capture a tremendous mix of emotions especially in the prologue and “This Hurts” in which he plays a main who feels no pain. 
The cast of six plays a wide variety of characters in the town, as well as visitors to it hoping to see the Northern Lights.  They adroitly avoid cutesiness or  cloying, steering with balance. And the evening ends with the possibility of seeing the romance before you, accepting, and emphatically embracing it in a nice turn from actors Steve Yates and Jessica Sherr.

After a long winter, a fine spring romance as evoked by the Hudson Theater Ensemble’s production makes for a pleasant outing.

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