The Theatreguide.London Review
When Harry Met Sally
Haymarket Theatre Winter-Spring 2004
This is a pointless review, since everyone who wants to see this show – that is, fans of the two stars - will see it regardless. So I suppose I'm writing this for those who weren't planning to see it unless it turned out to be really good.
Don't bother. It isn't.
Marcy Kahan has adapted Nora Ephron's 1989 screenplay about the couple who meet cute and become buddies over the years without realising until almost too late that they're in love, and it's being presented as a vehicle for two B-list American TV actors.
Luke Perry was a teen heartthrob in Beverly Hills 90210 a decade ago, and Alyson Hannigan was one of the secondary characters - the lesbian good witch - in Buffy the Vampire Slayer. And I understand that it really does not matter to anyone in the audience that they're both terrible in this show.
Hannigan is appropriately perky but otherwise vacant. There's no sense of a character in there, and no indication of growth or change over the thirteen years the play covers.
Perry is a stick. A very pretty stick, to be sure, but he brings even less to his role than Hannigan does to hers. Nothing that Nora Ephron wrote into the role (or that Billy Crystal brought to it in the film) is there.
He's not funny, he's not a New Yorker, he's not a mensch. (Imagine Woody Allen trying to play a California surfer. Now reverse it, and you'll see what I mean.)
Far worse than either star's empty characterisation is the fact that there is absolutely no chemistry between them. You never for a minute feel that these two are buddies, much less potential lovers. They play every scene, including the one in bed, as if they had just met for the first time.
As their friends who become a couple, Jake Broder and Sharon Small create more reality and intimacy in a single scene involving telephone calls than the stars do in the whole show.
As I've said elsewhere, when everyone in a show is bad, and bad in exactly the same way, then the fault isn't really theirs - it's the director's.
Aside from not being able to draw any reality out of her stars, director Loveday Ingram does not create any sense of place - you will at no point believe you're in New York City - of time - though we're told thirteen years pass, nobody ages, costumes and hairstyles don't change, and relationships between characters don't develop - or of pacing - each scene just lies there.
Other than masking the stage so it has the proportions of a Cinemascope screen, the only touch of wit in the entire evening is a clever twist on the filmscript's most famous line.
(Oh, hell, you're not going to see it, so why worry about spoiling the joke. When Sally demonstrates how to fake an orgasm in a restaurant, the 'I'll have what she's having' line is given to a gay guy.)
Two attractive and personable performers are sadly miscast, way out of their depth, and evidently given no help by their director. Their fans won't mind, and their fans are the only ones who will want to see this.
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