“That’s so different from Friends, though”, I heard in the theatre during the interval. Of course it is not, Chandler Bing disappeared with the end of the series Friends in 2004, leaving the world in tears. It is time for us, the audience, to accept it. But Matthew Perry is in London and started 2016 with a new play.
The End of Longing is a dark play written by Matthew Perry and directed by Lindsay Posner filled with black humour and daring characters. Jack, played by Perry himself, is an alcoholic, (a little autobiographical isn’t it?) But he doesn’t like this word, he considers himself more like a heavy drinker. A guy who drinks before meeting with his friends and arrives early at the bar so his friends cannot see he’s been drinking before, allowing him to drink even more. Stephanie (Jennifer Mudge) is a whore, and she shouts it loud and clear: “I am not a whore because I have sex with a lot of men, I am a real whore, I get paid for it.” Joseph (Lloyd Owen), well, it’s Joseph, he is handsome and… simple. Stevie (Christina Cole) has a lot of panic attacks and stresses a lot. It is therefore not sure if she really knows what happiness is. But she tries, I mean, it’s time now.
The four protagonists will meet in a club and that is, weirdly, when their lives will change. Spending time together will make the characters realise their own flaws through the others’. Jack has a drinking problem, and he feels fine about it, almost happy. Until he meets Stephanie, who earns so much money that he just wonders how many clients per day she has, which starts to make him miserable…and in love. But what is? The fact that she is happy about it even though it is a disgrace and makes her an outlaw, and for instance, that he sees himself through her? He seems to notice the others’ flaws without accepting his.
Those two are similar, but what about Stevie and Joseph? Well, they are nothing like each other but it seems to balance their lives. Too much stress vs being a little too unconscious and cool. In seeing the others’ attitudes, people tend to balance their own behaviour. Stevie wants to be a mum, but her neurosis seems to keep her far from her dreams. She will work on her to accept Joseph and even realise, he may be a good catch. How? The play says it all.
The two couples will struggle in finding balance and even refusing it. Then, is The End of Longing based on balance and good resolutions? In the end, the main character is reality. What happens when someone has to confront with reality? They actually let their true self out. They swear, they don’t try to be handsome, beautiful, or even control their emotions. Indeed, longing comes to an end. The characters find their true selves, even if it means being disappointed or scared, it is time to face reality and accept it to be able to take the last chance life gives them. Because, to be honest, they are lucky to have this last chance, I mean, a whore, an alcoholic, a lunatic and an idiot?
They are four friends trying to find a new meaning to life.
The staging intrigues by its simplicity. Four sets where each character will find confidence, where they are going to evolve. But also where they will have to face themselves. Two bedrooms, one club, a hospital. That is quite easily that each set will disappear horizontally with the help of one original music, and become another one. The lighting helps the audience concentrate on one character and that is usually a way to help him discover something about their personality. Unlike the sets changing horizontally, the vertical light emphasizes the psychological aspect of the play. Who are we? Could we change for someone else and for instance, suffer physically?
Perry already starred in Go On (NBC, 2012-2014) and The Odd Couple (CBS, since 2015). Both series picture him experiencing a renewal after one important change in his life, like death or a divorce, which could be considered as a mise en abyme of his own life.
The End of Longing runs at the Playhouse Theatre in London until May 14th, 2016.