The End Of Longing
By Matthew Perry
That's What Friends Are For
Long before the sitcom Friends hit our screens in our homes, the place of friendship and love in modern life provided the script of many a Hollywood movie and also proved an ironic backdrop in at least one darkly humorous song sung by two celebrities in a hidden real-life illicit relationship
Now Matthew Perry - of Friends' fame - who tells us he contributed to the sitcom'sscripts has put together his first play, also with dark undertones, The End of Longing. The story of four 40-something singletons drawn together in the bar and the bedroom.
Smoothly directed by Lindsey Posner with slick design by Anna Fleischle, Perry takes the lead role as heavy drinking photographer Jack downing enough vodka "to finance Russia".
TLT and her four wheeled conveyance did wonder exactly what the title meant and if it were a quote from a poem or similar. A quick Google turned up a political science paper "The End of Longing ? Notes towards a history of post war German Longing" - surely not? - and the equally unlikely source of a historical novel by Australian writer Ian Reid.
Well, maybe we are given notes ... The quickly passing staccato scenes are like the pages of a notebook quickly turning and have the feel of a a sitcom or soap, even to the point of one character joking whether they have half an hour's worth of material.
The over size angular scenery sliding in and out could be in a studio lot and, after tragedy looms in the second act, the power of positive thinking and a happy ending wins out.
The types are familiar TV characters: A high-class $2,500 an hour hooker Stephanie (statuesque Jennifer Mudge). An female pharma executive desperate to have a baby Stevie (Christina Cole a bundle of nervous energy). The two women bonded reaching for the same latte in some coffee shop or other ;). And, the most intriguing character, the seemingly dim but good natured Joseph (a finely judged performance from Lloyd Owen) who met Jtack on the sports' field.
Maybe behind this brittle play, there's a real story which the production reflects. Certainly Perry's battle with drink and drugs hit the headlines. But is it too fanciful to think that the genuine nature of friendship after fame strikes must also be a obsession?
There are hints of a self reflexive play here reflecting on the skewing of life by TV tropes with its references to the TV process with its switching of old wine in new bottles, to pitch, sell, stay in the limelight and update to today's broadcasting currency.
We're in a bar, we're in a bedroom, we're in a late night pharmacy, we're in a hospital, in a church asking for a miracle and maybe finally on the cusp of a script pitch and commission. Then there are the off stage plots - pretending to be a couple to meet the parents, the Alcoholics Anonymous meetings and so on.
In the end, it's Matthew Perry who is the draw and Friends' fans may well be satisfied. It's an odd fish of a play but we prefer to believe it's a more sophisticated vehicle than a shuffling of pre-programmed plot cards and characters, leaving us to discern what is actually happening and what is TV fantasy. An amber light for an uneven play given a polished production.