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Two old friends are uncorked in St. Paul staging of ‘Sometimes There’s Wine’

September 24, 2018

“Sometimes There’s Wine” sounds coy, but don’t let the title of Shanan Custer and Carolyn Pool’s two-person show fool you. The wine flows freely, from the first scene to the last. It’s even featured in the program with snack pairings. Pinot Grigio and Twix, anyone?

Introduced at the 2016 Fringe Fest, “Sometimes There’s Wine” follows in the footsteps of its creators’ earlier work “2 Sugars, Room for Cream.” While wine, not coffee, provides the stimulus this time around, the format remains the same: comic vignettes that illuminate the hilarity of familiar situations and everyday foibles. And as with their previous show, what really fuels the charm isn’t the choice of beverage but the authenticity of the relationship between these two women.

The show opens with a restaurant sketch. Pool is a harried server, dealing with a series of annoying, irascible or bewildered customers, all played by Custer. Anyone who’s ever worked in the service industry will know these people: the woman who can’t decide on an order but won’t let the server step away; the fellow who demands beer at a wine bar; the mom who blocks the aisle with a Cadillac-sized stroller. (“But this is my child!”)

Other segments include a wedding that spurs two sisters to rehash old battles; a book club meeting whose two attendees mull over the fact that everyone else is at a much cooler gathering; a Christmas party where the family’s black sheep finds herself parked at the kids’ table.

Custer’s unerring comic chops are on full view, from the deer-in-the-headlights look in her eye as the always well-behaved older sister watching a wedding toast unravel, to her ability to convey the taste of a cheap glass of wine through a gasp and a stuttered question. Pool nicely balances Custer’s frenetic presence, bringing a more relaxed, devil-may-care attitude to her various roles.

Sadie Ward’s simple set — strings of lighted wine bottles bookended by towering wine racks — provides a suitably flexible backdrop for the various locales. Angela Timberman’s brightly paced direction keeps the pace buoyant and bright as one scene bounces into the next.

This piece offers all the joy of a lively conversation between two close and very clever friends, ranging from sweetly poignant to full-on funny, accented by the occasional snarky aside and politically pointed remark. If there’s a quibble here, it’s that their give-and-take meanders toward the end as they seek a resolution. That minor point aside, the dry notes and earthy undertones of “Sometimes There’s Wine” make for a satisfying bouquet.

Lisa Brock is a Twin Cities theater critic.

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