Director David Mats Johansson
Cast Owen Bell, Aaron Garcia, Michelle Hoffman, Fern Lim, Tom
Szyszko and Awesta Zarif
For their first show of 2014, English-language amateur drama company East West Theatre present John Cariani’s
Off-Broadway play Almost, Maine,
about love of all kinds, on one winter Friday night under the Northern Lights.
Consisting of nine snapshots of almost-love stories, Almost,
Maine is set ‘far away from things’, in the titular tiny community on the northern-most tip of New England, and is as much
a story about the beauty and quirks of small town life here as it is of the
characters on stage.
Throughout the 90-minute production we see touching, sometimes sad, but quite often laugh-out-loud funny renditions of awkward dates, chance
encounters with strangers, meetings of old flames and bickering married couples, all through Cariani’s slightly absurd gaze.
There’s Gayle, who tries to give back all the love from her ex
partner Lendall with a car full of empty red luggage, while Glory keeps her
broken heart with her in a drawstring bag. And perhaps most movingly, there’s Steve,
who carries around a reminder list of things he should be afraid of in the world,
because he has an inability to feel physical pain, and believes he will never experience love: 'My brother Paul says I have a lot of deficiencies and not many capacities'.
Held at the new Strictly Designers United Space, (now on
Fuxing Dong Lu and even smaller than before) staging is cramped, making the beauty of Maine's 'big wide skies' impossible to convey, but the
solid ensemble cast of six, who take on 19 different roles across the nine set
pieces, are all strong enough to keep our attention away from the
very limited sets.
This time, the cast also includes some relative newcomers to
the East West fold, who all hold their own against some of the more familiar
faces. Fern Lim, is a bundle of energy throughout, while Aaron Garcia starts
slightly tense but goes on to make for one of the night’s funniest slapstick pieces,
physically falling to the floor every time he realises he has fallen in love.
Unfortunately it isn’t all perfect. Staging includes the odd
addition of song breaks for not overly-romantic pop hits (such as ‘Hit Me Baby One
More Time’, Rihanna’s slightly depressing ‘We Fell in Love in A Hopeless Place’, and an awkward
encouraged sing-a-long of ‘Don’t Worry, Be Happy’ at the end) which are largely
unnecessary. While vocally impressive, here they only serve to distract from
the touching small-town scenes altogether, and would have perhaps been better served by instrumental breaks.
But this is small distraction from an otherwise charming production
that doesn’t fail to have the audience smiling, laughing and rooting for the love
in each heartfelt story.
is at Strictly Designers United from Friday 14 - Sunday 16 and Friday 21 -
Sunday 23 February. Tickets are 150RMB/advance, 180RMB/door. Email firstname.lastname@example.org for more. See
full event details