Almost is a place in Maine, but it could also mean the adverb, meaning “not quite” or “nearly.” That’s the best way to describe Almost, Maine, Repertory Philippines’ second offering for their 49th season.
This heartwarming play directed by Bart Guingona set in the icy fictional town of Almost tells nine different yet interconnected stories, each one about love, but not quite. It’s a quiet, clever, and well-written play that reminds one of quirky rom-coms starring Zooey Deschanel, but Almost, Maine was written five years before (500) Days of Summer.
One of my favorite stories is “Sad and Glad,” where Jimmy meets his ex-girlfriend Sandrine in a bar. Hoping to reconnect, he forces her to join his table and he regales her with stories of his life, unaware that she’s there to celebrate her bachelorette party. She discovers that he had the word “villain” tattooed on his arm to remind himself that he’s a bad person for letting her go, except the word is misspelled as “villian.” Sandrine excuses herself and Jimmy tells her that he’s glad she’s been found. He tries to call the waitress’s attention from across the bar, and she saunters over, saying that she’s glad she found him. She introduces herself as Villian.
In another favorite scene, “A Story of Hope,” Hope returns to Almost to look for the boyfriend she left. She visits his house and finds a gaunt and unhappy-looking man. Hope tells him about Danny, the guy who proposed to her before she left for college, without realizing the guy is Danny. When she realizes it’s him, she comments on his waifish figure and he replies, “Yeah. I lost a lot of Hope.”
It’s this clever writing that makes Almost, Maine such an endearing watch. Repertory’s staging is also wonderfully cast with Jamie Wilson, Reb Atadero, Caisa Borromeo, and Natalie Everett. Wilson is charming, Everett adds the right amount of saltiness in her roles, while Atadero and Borromeo add a punch to their heartbroken characters.
Almost, Maine shuttles from cheesy to heartbreaking and back again, and despite the snowy set (and brilliant reenactment of the northern lights by John Batalla) and the near-zero temperature at Onstage, Almost, Maine managed to warm my weary heart.
Repertory Philippines’ Almost, Maine ran from February 19 to March 13 at Onstage Theater in Greenbelt 1. Disclosure: This writer is part of the PR team that handles Repertory Philippines.