Originally published on The Reviews Hub
Awarde 3 1/2 stars – Sitcom
Matthew Perry’s first written work for the stage plays out almost like a sitcom – no scene is longer than a few minutes and typically concluded with a comedy punchline that signals the scene change.
Stephanie (Jennifer Mudge) and Stevie (Christina Cole), despite their obvious differences, are firm friends. One night in a bar, as they engage in their typical ritual of a drink and a gossip, they are approached by a slightly drunk but incredibly charming Jack (Perry). Jack has that kind of dry and direct wit, no frills and no apologies. Confident blond bombshell Stephanie can give as good as she gets when it comes to men, but even she can’t deny his dysfunctional charm. Anxious and overly talkative Stevie is then left with Jack’s simple friend Joseph (Lloyd Owen), not the obvious of pairings. And so begins two dysfunctional relationships filled with arguments, pregnancy and a distinct lack of romance.
Designer Anna Fleischle has created an atmosphere that sits on the fringes of a romantic backdrop; the background music sounds like a soundtrack to a porn film; the sets are dark and discreet (the back of a bar, a dimly lit bedroom). The overall theme behind the whole production is presented in a unified fashion – real relationships are not Disney-perfect and most often are filled with self-doubt and incompatibility. If director Lindsay Posner sets out to present these characters as honestly as possible, flaws and all, then the final result has definitely been achieved.
As for its execution, the play is a bit hit and miss. Some jokes land well (the scene about masturbating over porn for example – “It’s like those hot towels they give you on aeroplanes”), others fall short. Initially, there is a nervousness within each of the actors that doesn’t do any favours for their performances. But, as the show slowly shifts from canned laughter to genuine emotion, the cast relax and embrace their roles. Jack’s first meeting at an AA meeting is so believable it could be autobiographical and as Joseph grapples with the prospect of losing everything he exerts a confidence that has since lain dormant in his characterisation. Overall however Perry seems to have tried too hard to insert comedy into each opportunity and this disrupts the flow of dialogue.
The End of Longing has an innate romantic apathy that gives it an alternative flavour. In this way it presents itself as a more realistic view of four broken people trying to stumble through their way in the world – “We do not have unlimited time” as Steph emphatically puts it to Jack in the midst of their break-up. In execution, there are also some stumbles that are less flavourful. But the theme comes through nevertheless.
Writer: Matthew Perry
Director: Lindsay Posner
Reviewer: Daniel Perks
Runs until Saturday 14 May 2016 | Image: Helen Maybanks