By Sandi Durell
The End of Longing, at MCC Theater, can best be described as the angst of four present day dysfunctional almost 40-somethings, drowning in their own dissatisfaction while struggling to survive and connect in the only way each can. This dark comedy, written by Matthew Perry (of Friends fame and currently The Odd Couple), may well be semi autobiographical in nature as Jack, a photographer by trade, struggles with his own alcoholism.
Four people meet in a bar in L.A., the women are friends – Stephanie (Jennifer Morrison), a $2500 a hour escort and Stevie (Sue Jean Kim), a highly neurotic pharmaceutical rep (trying out her own samples) and eager to have a baby. The men are also buddies – Jack and Jeffrey (Quincy Dunn-Baker), a slightly dim-witted really sweet guy not long on intellect, coach a kids’ softball team. Turns out that Stevie was waiting for Jeffrey (whom she already slept with and is hoping he might be the one to stop her biological clock from ticking). Jack and Stephanie, even with all the low level zingers and wisecracks they throw at each other, wind up in bed in her apartment. Both awake not remembering if anything happened, they were too drunk – an almost permanent state of being on Jack’s part.
A similar scenario occurs in Stevie’s apartment and when she and Jeffrey awake she is in her usual state of frenzied anxiety beside a very calm Jeffrey, recalling their intimacy.
After listening to layer and layer of sarcasm, constant swearing, and the obvious writing style of a TV sitcom, replete with some comical one-liners, we must wonder why this production, that already had a run on London’s West End last year, has ventured abroad to land at the Lucille Lortel Theatre! The cliché of the story surely doesn’t have a unique punch-line. So, in spite of all the battling, screaming and cursing, we’re left with a guy who has to step up and change his MO if he’s going to get the girl, the ‘whore’ with whom he falls in love. As for Stephanie, she must choose whether this loud-mouthed and abrasive drunk is someone she cares enough for to give up her high priced profession. Quid pro quo!
On the other hand, the overanxious Stevie, getting her wish of pregnancy, begins to calm down in spite of Jeffrey’s mental deficiencies as he rises to the occasion, standing by her side, thrilled at being a new dad.
So it’s lessons learned in the struggle for love and while under the influence.
The play wears thin as it progresses over an hour and 40 minute time span (no intermission); the highlight seeing Matthew Perry bare his soul and emotions in this cathartic play if, in fact, Mr. Perry was actually connected or just going through the motions. It felt so stilted and orchestrated that I longed for the ending!
The cast is directed by Lindsay Posner. Derek McLane has created the turntable set that goes from bar to bedroom, with an interesting wall of glass bottles that change colors (lighting Ben Stanton).
The End of Longing, Lucille Lortel Theatre, 121 Christopher Street, West Village, NYC extended thru July 1.
Photos: Joan Marcus