Nine couples, almost in love
By Samuel Barson
Almost, Maine is a town that is as remote as it is mythical, where love is lost as quickly as it is gained. For their debut production, Between The Buildings Theatre Company has chosen John Cariani’s romantic comedy Almost, Maine. The play tells the story of nine couples navigating various situations of love and loss in the fictional town of Almost, which takes its name from the couples’ love that is almost found but never entirely fruitful.
For a debut, the cast and crew of this production have done a respectable job in bringing to life the characters of the eponymous town, but unfortunately it was too plagued with performance issues and weak approaches to the script for it to be anything outstanding.
Despite some setbacks, the cast work together well with Ruby Duncan’s performance being the standout of the evening. I believe some of the performances were let down by a lack of understanding of the script or the characters’ motives. Dialogue became predictable and the energy was, at times, monotonous. However, Duncan’s portrayal of a woman desperate to return her boyfriend’s love was moving and wholly engaging.
A significant issue that repeatedly arose during the play was characters forcing themselves on strangers or distant lovers, despite the clear discomfort of the other character. The idea of forcing yourself on someone in the hopes they will be instantly won over is an outdated depiction of seduction, and I would have liked to see these moments treated more carefully.
The saving grace of the show was the design. Justin Gardam and John Collopy skillfully balance the tightrope of realism and fantasy in the worlds they created, with a gorgeous combination of colours and sounds.
Between The Buildings is to be congratulated on taking their first leap into the independent theatre scene. Their future productions will undoubtedly reach spectacular heights.
Almost, Maine runs at Meat Market’s Stables, North Melbourne until 16 June. Tickets can be purchased online.
Photograph: Jack Dixon-Gunn