Almost, Maine

Mon 8th – Sat 13th August 2011

reviews

Rachel Lovibond

at 07:08 on 11th Aug 2011

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Having watched a number of other productions from the American High School Theatre Company, I have to admit that I wasn’t really looking forward to ‘Almost, Maine’. However, I was pleasantly surprised. ‘Almost, Maine’ was refreshing, original and touching in places. The plot consisted of a sequence of sketches between couples which were mixed in both quality and comedy; but at its very best, this play managed to be heart-warming in (mostly) a non-clichéd, genuine way.

There were seven sketches in total, framed by a prologue, interlude and epilogue. Although none of the acting was particularly strong, the plot of the sketches redeemed the play and made them interesting and often amusing to watch.

The absolute best sketch was entitled ‘this hurts’ and presented the meeting of a man with congenital analgesia and a girl who accidentally hits him with an ironing board. His condition means that he cannot feel physical pain and so carries around a list of things that he knows should hurt him. Consequently, his view of the world and method of thinking is much more literal and he perfectly, if unintentionally, summarizes her current negative relationship. Of course, the end of the piece rendered it clichéd and corny as the two strangers fall in love (having met each other approximately. 7 minutes ago), but if you attempt to ignore that small section then the rest of the sketch was really fresh and quietly excellent.

The framing structure should have been disgusting given the subject matter (a girl walking around the world to ‘be close to’ her boyfriend), but the character of Pete (the boy) was so well executed that he appeared self-conscious and embarrassed of the story into which he was written. This made these scenes entirely watchable and they cast a light on the performances which they structured, giving an overall impression of self-awareness to the play and actors.

The final sketch was probably the most amusing and depicted the wooing of a commitment-phobic tomboy. In what was easily the funniest scene of the play, the couple strip themselves for bed, a process which involves removing around 15 layers each of clothing (it being set in Maine). Whilst this should, by rights, have been reminiscent of pantomime and laboured, repetitive comedy, for some reason the characters manage to elude this genre and the sketch ends on a high for both cast and audience.

This is by no means the best acted play at the fringe, but if you would enjoy an originally written, ‘Love Actually’ type comedy, then ‘Almost, Maine’ is certainly worth a watch.

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