The warmth with which actor Luke Butler begins this show is unparalleled. The way he inhabits the character of The Professor so completely, with all his awkward, shaking physicality—it must be described, in the way only a flower-shop performance can, as a tour de force. From there, Me, Maria and The Moon proceeds with a quality that meets for certain the standard set by those opening minutes. It remains just as special throughout as the audience is taken along for the ride in this adventurous little tale of magical realism, crafted only by the words of an old man waxing philosophical about his monumental past, and his monumental love.
The family-friendly script that concerns this woman is acted out so well that the show manages to overcome any cheesiness that the lines would likely ooze if you read them on the page, and this is a triumph of Luke’s skills as a performer. I’ve not grinned more openly at a work of theatre than when The Professor was blasting his anxious way around that cramped and scented space, doing his set of introductions, addressing audience members personally and blushing at any and all applause. It’s a remarkable feat the show’s pulled off here, at once constructing the simple idea that this character is merely telling a story, while somehow also managing to turn That Flower Shop into a set of larger spaces—a bedroom, an ocean, the universe.
At several points, I was so convinced by the show’s mood that I began searching the space for some things that were not even there. I was searching for things that could not possibly exist at all.
And so I followed The Professor to the Moon and back, and I saw the dimensionality of his character unfold, and I came to realise that this play is more than just a love story—despite the narrator’s insistence that it is nothing but. It’s this extra layer, prevalent by the play’s end, that elevates Me, Maria and The Moon to something greater than the simplistic feel-good vibe insisted on by both the show’s primary aesthetic.
Luckily, one thing the show never needs to insist on is that it’s good—because everyone in attendance already knows that it is, even when the script occasionally falters. There’s one confusing moment mid-way through the play where The Professor, in his convoluted way, asks Maria her name—despite having referred to her as Maria the whole time. It’s then established, as the play is in past tense, that he’d only known her by her husband’s name up to that point, but this explanation doesn’t stop the line from jarring quite a bit, and it leads to a sort of disorientation—perhaps the single moment where I found myself tossed out and away from the play’s beautiful imagination.
But there’s not much else to critique aside from this. Sure, there are a couple points in the play’s middle that could be better tightened to hold the audience’s attention, but the one-man nature of this show means that by the end of its now-extended season Me, Maria, and The Moon will have likely ironed out its kinks and reached its full potential.
And what a potential it has. For its few minor faults, and maybe a somewhat stuffy venue, The Basics Project’s one-man extravaganza is something incredibly special. The breadth of emotion, the amount of depth that lies beneath the play’s surface—to describe Me, Maria, and The Moon as feel-good is to simply sell it short.