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A Midwinter Night’s Dream (Repertory Philippines’ ALMOST, MAINE – a Review)

Repertory Philippines’ ALMOST MAINE

It’s almost like THAT THING CALLED TADHANA (2014), but in snippets and more #hugots.
Almost like a marathon of Rod Sterling’s THE TWILIGHT ZONE, but with a strange mix of romance.
Almost like a Thorton Wilder play, but not quite.
Almost like a Red Turnip Theater production, but it’s not in White Space.
Almost like Shakespeare’s A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM, but this has the Northern Lights as the tricky gods.
Almost like NEW YORK, I LOVE YOU (2009), but this one is all set in snow.
Almost distant, yet – somehow – pretty much near.

That’s Repertory Philippines’ ALMOST, MAINE. I watched it on February 27, but it still feels like almost Valentines.

Repertory Philippines' ALMOST MAINE
From left to right: Reb Atadero, Caisa Borromeo and Natalie Everett in Rep Philippines’ ALMOST, MAINE (Photo courtesy of Mr. Jaypee Maristaza)

They call the place Almost Maine, because its residents never got around to get organized, that they never had the time to give the town a serious name. See, their town is so far up north some say it’s already in Canada, while others argue that it’s still in the United States. Then, in one snowy evening in Almost Maine – probably in the middle of winter – as the upper reaches of the Earth’s atmosphere’s electrons collide to bring the magnificent Aurora Borealis, residents suddenly find themselves losing love or finding them. On this night,  eight couples may either have their hearts broken or restored.

Set Designers Coco Anne and Baby Imperial transforms the Onstage platform to an eerily beautiful – almost limitless – panorama of snow and cold. But in this snowy landscape, Director Bart Guingona, orchestrates an almost minimal retelling of nine different stories. ALMOST, MAINE comes with nine romances complete with openings, rising actions, climaxes and denouements. As the structure requires us to invest and reinvest in new stories and new characters as each story begins, Guingona manages to effectively transition from one crucial episode to another. He controls his actors’ movements to present more than just the story but its characters. Here, you see the focus on the motivations and decisions. Though silent and almost surreal, Guingona offers something quite refreshing; so true to self, that it ultimately hits the mark.

Repertory Philippines' ALMOST MAINE
From left to right: Jamie Wilson and Natalie Everett in Rep Philippines’ ALMOST, MAINE. (Photo courtesy of Mr. Jaypee Maristaza)

ALMOST, MAINE comes with a rather powerful ensemble. Yes, I say powerful, because each actore put on more than just one role. As John Cariani’s montage of strange love stories unfold, Reb Atadero, Caisa Borromeo, Natalie Everett and Jamie Wilson transform to four different characters to tell the eight romantic episodes that’ll either paste a smile on your face or give off a poignant sigh.

Cariani’s material thrives on the idea that love can take on different forms and face greater challenges. Here are nine love vignettes with far-reaching endings. As a matter of fact, like a dream, I wonder if each story ends at all. See, each story has its own complex theme, however fragile; however superstitious. There are no Star Cinema resolutions here, oh no!  The endings  could be almost sad or almost happy. But after every story, there seems to be a promise of joy, and Cariani’s story thrives on these promises – that love may be as freeing and splendid, as we know it, and at the same time, it is always uncertain. It tells us that love is a journey to happiness, and the audience journey with the characters. Like them, we wait, we invest, we reinvest, and then we wait again for that one happy resolution – that one happy ending.

Repertory Philippines' ALMOST MAINE
From left to right: Jamie Wilson and Natalie Everett in Rep Philippines’ ALMOST, MAINE (Photos courtesy of Mr. Jaypee Maristaza)

Isn’t love always like that? Like a midwinter night’s dream, isn’t it always more or less? Always near? Always approaching? And if only we’ll keep on holding on and believing, it’ll be enough to say that we’re already there.

Well, almost.

But that, in itself, could be enough for now.

***

On another note, seeing Onstage Greenbelt filled with occasionally cheering, sometimes sighing and mostly laughing crowd last weekend, makes me want to jump for joy. Repertory Philippines has made the good choice of bringing something like ALMOST, MAINE. Like Cariani’s material that talks about our lifetime of trying and trying again, it is great to see how they have triumphed again this year with a full house. Like Ginette and Pete (of the PROLOGUE) who redefined “letting go” and “distance,” Rep’s audiences took its time, made a full turn, and came back.

Watch it! Watch it, and cry, laugh, smile, hope, and cheer love!

Besides, ang mura ng ticket – wag ka nang umarte.

Special thanks to Mr. Jaypee Maristaza, for the wonderful photos!

Tags : almost mainerepertory philippinesreviews
Orly S. Agawin

The author Orly S. Agawin

Orly has been writing for The Jellicle Blog since 2008. He is a training and development consultant by day and an art enthusiast by night. He lives in Parañaque with his mom.

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