“Almost, Maine” at the Park Theatre

Widely performed in its native United States, John Cariani’s Almost, Maine has received its first UK production at Park Theatre. A series of scenes, with different couples facing the exigencies and ecstasies of love, it’s about ordinary people in a small American town facing up to romantic problems. The potential for sentimentality is notable, so director Simon Evans uses his talented cast to make the proceedings clear rather than cute.

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Ian Keir Attard and Patrick Walshe McBride

The little stories might be divided into two types. There are those that deal with recognisable situations: an awkward meeting between ex-partners the night before one of them marries, where Susan Stanley conveys her character’s nervous energy perfectly, or the courtship of a tomboyish girl, which gives Lucy Eaton a chance to shine. Then there are scenes with a more surreal edge. Melanie Heslop is wonderfully cookie as a woman who carries her broken heart around in a paper bag. Hamish Clark is splendid in a scene where his character’s long-term girlfriend brings all the love she gave him back – in mail sacks. Ian Keir Attard and Patrick Walshe McBride have a great moment playing friends who literally fall in love, incapable of standing upright, made acrobatic by the truth dawning upon them.

It might frustrate you that Almost, Maine is a collection of sketches. There are unifying factors – characters are mentioned in other stories, random kisses are common and the weather is always cold – but these feel contrived. Also, it’s a little difficult to place the show in time, which bothered me. And though its hardly Cariani’s fault his effort to inject ‘magical moments’ might remind you too much of a chocolate box. I preferred the more bizarre scenes but it’s safe to say there’s something quality here for everyone – what’s your favourite favourite?

Until 17 January 2015

www.parktheatre.co.uk

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