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'Almost, Maine' at UMKC glistens with newfound actors and character development

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Almost, Maine

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For a lot of laughs stemming from preposterous sketches and the chance to see Kansas City’s up and coming talent, call UMKC and secure tickets to Almost, Maine playing now through Dec. 8 in a small, intimate black box setting.

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Almost, Maine, written by John Cariani, a series of nine short pieces, each involving predominately two actors, allows the cast of eight to assume various identities in different sketches, all in the wilderness area of Almost, Maine. Under the direction of John Rensenhouse, the student actors shine in this exercise of absurdity.

As the story unfolds, each piece starts with the introduction of a “seemingly” normal situation, but as the dialog and action begin, the script takes the characters to unexpected twists and turns while straying more and more from normal and expected. Each vignette, though short, allows the actors to dig deep inside to create a character fully immersed in the absurdity of the situation. If not acted with honesty in character development, the piece will not work. Because the actors focus and believe in their character, the UMKC version garners laughs throughout.

Some sketches focus on humor, some on sadness, some on heartbreak, and some on hope. Each scenario allows the audience to sit back to enjoy the ride from normal to crazy. What makes the piece shine is the effort to make the crazy characters appear normal and rational in a twisted world. Rensenhouse succeeds in directing this talented cast to perform each character with conviction.

The scene transition for Almost, Maine helped tie the pieces together. Like in a snow globe, the titles signaling the beginning and ending of a piece float through the set as actors and stage hands dance and spin around the set with placard to introduce and end each vignette.

The eight member cast that performs the Almost, Maine are: Jamie Dufault, Alisha Espinosa, Spencer Christensen, Laura Jacobs, Nick Papamihalakis, Emily Nan Phillips, Nicole Greenberg, Joseph Fournier.

The creative team includes: Alexander La France, scenic design; Tyler Banks, costume design; Heather M. Crocker, lighting design; Michael Heuer, sound design, composer; Christopher Stepanek, technical director; Margaret Shelby, dramaturg; and Kelsey Brennan, stage manager.

For a light evening of laughs, Almost, Maine comes highly recommended. The theatre space holds only about 50. Call ahead for reservations to avoid a shut out. For more information check out the website: umkctheatre.org.

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