“Mythical . . . sometimes fantastical” are the words that director Bart Guingona uses to describe Almost, Maine, the Repertory Philippines production, which will go onstage for its final show today at Onstage Theater in Greenbelt 1, Makati City.
Set in an imaginary town of “Almost” in the state of Maine, USA, nine unusual love stories unfold on stage for the well-received play.
Four actors play the different characters of each story. “The stories are mythical, yet real—simple, yet profound,” Guingona continues, who truly fell in love with the material. “John Cariani, the playwright, takes a cliché and turns it over on its head by making it literal.”
In a nutshell, Almost, Maine is a gentle, funny, play involving real people dealing with affairs of the heart. “Cute will kill it,” warns the author (himself an actor), and the actors play their parts with complete truth, letting the strangeness of the characters, the dialogue, and the absurd situations create the comedy.
“I had a hard time choosing the cast,” Guingona recalls. “Almost, Maine became an acting bonanza and many actors read for it. Many were good but I had to mix and match ages, physical appearances, and types.” This is understandable since the actors play different characters and interact with one another in different ways in the different stories that seamlessly blend into each other.
The four Rep veterans who got the leads were: Jamie Wilson (recent Aliw Awardee for his work in Run For Your Wife, and part of REP’s retinue of actors since he was eight); Reb Atadero, (The Graduate, Altar Boys, Sweeney Todd); Caisa Borromeo (The Secret Garden, Little Women); and Natalie Everett (The Secret Garden, The Game’s Afoot).
“They have good chemistry,” notes Guingona who, according to his actors, gave them the freedom to create, to take chances, to be courageous, to “mess up,” and finally to “eliminate all of the wrong and discover the right.”
Their task was to create different people, living in the same small town, on the same day, taking different spiritual journeys. “It was daunting,” they agree and they approached their roles with a certain element of fear. Yet they found it exciting as well. They enjoyed the humor, the surprises, and the many magic moments—often irresistibly laughing themselves as they watched or rehearsed each story.
Almost, Maine, which premiered just after Valentines on February 19, offered lovers of all ages and stages the chance to celebrate the emotion with a feel-good play that is funny, heart warming, and that focuses on the best of human nature.
Indeed, there will be fond farewells for this wonderful production, which takes its final bow today to what will surely be, a well-deserved round of applause.