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The Theatreguide.London Review

The End Of Longing
Playhouse Theatre  Spring 2016

Actor Matthew Perry's first play he's done some TV writing is a romantic comedy that works a very few minor variation on the formulae and conventions of the genre. 

The attraction for most theatregoers is that the cast includes Matthew Perry the TV star, from the long-running sitcom Friends (He played Chandler, the one who wasn't Ross or Joey).

But it's a decent enough comedy on its own, and Perry offers his fans some surprises in a deeper and darker performance than they might expect. 

The opening premise sounds like the start of a joke: a drunk, a whore, a dumb jock and a typically neurotic New Yorker walk into a bar. 

All are approaching their forties, and an underlying suspicion that they really ought to start being grown-ups colours all their actions. The alcoholic and the jock are buddies, as are the two women, the ditzy girl is dating the dumb guy, and the drunk and the whore end up in bed together for a freebie. 

None of them evidently ever having seen a rom com in their lives, and therefore being unfamiliar with the first law of the genre, which is that unlikely couples always fall in love, they spend the bulk of the play wondering how they paired off in these unexpected ways and whether it's a good idea. 

You see what I mean about formula. 

One couple is going to stop questioning their luck in finding each other and just enjoy it, one couple is going to risk spoiling everything by not relaxing, someone is going to get pregnant, someone is going to propose, someone is going to have a health scare, someone is going to issue an ultimatum. 

While you might not predict every plot turn, nothing that happens is really going to surprise you. But that of course is one of the pleasures of romantic comedy, watching the characters stumble their way toward the inevitable. 

And The End Of Longing delivers a good quota of chuckles, light sentimentality and even some serious touches. You will have forgotten it completely within days, but it is thoroughly satisfying to sit through. 

Matthew Perry the playwright doesn't give the actors much that isn't formulaic to work with the alcoholic drinks because he's afraid of facing life sober, the $2500-an-hour call girl can't give up the easy money, her friend's biological clock is ticking away, and the dumb guy turns out (surprise!) to be the sanest and solidest of the bunch. 

Directed with a light but steady hand by Lindsay Posner, Matthew Perry does not, as some TV actors do, fall back on familiar tics and mannerisms to please his fans. 

His alcoholic is almost functional and almost happy but carries the weight of disappointment in himself, and the actor even takes the risk of being unsympathetic.

Jennifer Mudge is given even less to work with as the call girl, and beyond trying to convince us that this woman is in it just for the money, she has trouble creating a character. 

Even less is given to Christina Cole and Lloyd Owen as the other couple, but less is asked of them, and they skate along easily and enjoyably in their not-much-more-than-single-note characters.

Gerald Berkowitz

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Review - The End Of Longing - Playhouse Theatre 2016 

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