▲ Pete (Ju Min Jin) and Ginette confess their love for each other for the first time. Provided by Story P.
People fall in love like they flick on a switch. They turn it on with the touch of the fingertips and, like a forest fire, love rapidly spreads. Then they turn it off again, and the power goes off as if nothing ever happened. It is this easy—all it takes is the slightest touch of the fingertips to start and end love. People check each other out as they walk by. They ask for each other’s number at a subway station. “Will you go out with me?” is a question that must be answered in order to start love. It seems that today, love has become too dichotomous—more of an easy O, X quiz than an interchange of complex feelings. So the question Almost Maine asks is this: what is true love?
"Do not be silly! Everyone can fall in love!” Marvalyn, one of the nine main characters of the show Almost Maine brightly says. Almost Maine is an omnibus play that consists of nine short stories, all of which hint to people as to what love is. Taking place at a fictional town named Almost in Maine, the story shows what happens to nine couples simultaneously. Minutes before a fascinating aurora emerges on a chilly Friday night, some couples fight, some confess their love for one another for the first time, and some say goodbye.
Almost Maine does not define what love is for the audience, nor does it provide useful tips on how to make love relationships work right. Instead, it merely depicts the emotional exchanges—be it sadness, loneliness, or happiness—that go back and forth like a Ping- Pong game between two persons. Unlike typical romantic comedy shows, there are no ups and downs, twists, and dramatic effects that fancily decorate the story. Instead it flows like a clear river, into the hearts of the people, and provides hints as to what love may be.
Several factors make this play attractive and mesmerizing. The foremost is that love is depicted the way it truly exists for people—in a complex manner. It is romantic, sad, tragic, happy, mellow, grave, light, heavy, and so much more, all at the same time. For Pete, the very first main character that shows up in the play, love is a continuous waiting for Ginette, no matter how long the time may take. For Glory, it is carrying around her broken heart in a paper bag. For Jimmy, it is pretending to be fine upon hearing about his ex-girlfriend’s marriage, when he really is not fine. “It is romantic and sweet, but then cruel and saddening all at once,” said Ju Min Jin, who plays Pete, Jimmy, and Phil.
Thus, in Almost, love is tricky, demanding, and capricious. Rather than a yes or no question, it is more of a sophisticated exchange of hearts that continuously bounce back and forth. No love in this world or in people’s lives can ever be identical. It is not the flick of the switch that starts and ends love, but the true hearts of the people of Almost. They worry if that is what they have to do, hesitate if they need more time, take courage if they feel the need to, and wait if they believe that they should. It is not easy to follow one’s heart; after all, it takes a whole lot of courage and time to look into their deep minds. Therefore, the love that people of Almost show is slow, stubborn, plain, and at the same time pristine.
No love can stay evergreen. Just as an aurora never stays the same color, love changes because people change. Every love changes in a different way. Love may degrade into hate, making two once fierce lovers turn their backs on each other. Or it may deepen as a shallow river slowly flows to become a deep blue ocean. Almost Maine focuses on the slow process of every love that moving inches toward or further from each other. The audience, meanwhile, cannot help but feel deep empathy as they reflect themselves onto the characters that try so hard to accept the changes in love. These love stories are about all of us and reflect the love that we have had, may be having, or will be having someday.
Almost Maine poses a different lesson for every individual. It may be the realistic and romantic lines of the characters, or specific themes from a particular story that the audience may keep within their hearts. However, in the end, it is really up to the people themselves to choose which jewelry to keep from the treasure box. This play is not unilaterally teaching the audience what people ought to remember, but rather how to make the audience feel. “The biggest lesson I learned from the people of Almost is their attitude towards love scars,” Ju shared. “Instead of trying to hide and ignore it as we do, they purely accept the pain and try to heal it.”
“I hope you find it, too, the one place in this world where you belong,” says a man as he waves goodbye to his former lover, Hope. Almost Maine does not provide a definite answer like a mathematic equation to what love is. Instead it reminds people that love is not black or white. Just like an aurora that constantly changes its colors to blue, green, and red at every miniscule moment, love is not definite. Love is not and can never be as easy as the flick of a switch—it takes time, patience, and a whole heart. It is complex—maybe that is the reason why people wish to render it easier and simpler. The question, “What is love?” still roams around and the answer is yet to be found. Until then, let that enigma we call love be in everything and reside everywhere.
Performance Information Place: Sangmyung Art Hall, Theatre 1 Running Time: 110 minutes Date: 2016.01.08~2016.04.10 Ticket Price: 30,000 won - 40,000 won