Keen to move out from under the Friends shadow, Matthew Perry – perhaps better known as Chandler Bing – wrote and starred in what could be described as Friends after the watershed.
The End of Longing follows four people, two pairs of friends who meet in a bar under slightly coincidental circumstances and, of course, couple off. But one pair fares slightly better than the other, more volatile, couple.
As you would hope from Perry, who played a hilariously bitter and sarcastic character on TV for 10 years and undoubtedly had that attitude engrained into his soul, the play is packed with acerbic humour. It actually made me laugh out loud several times, which is rare for me. So I would definitely say the humour was a success, and that’s largely what makes it worth your time (though beware it is rather rude at times!)
Perry himself on stage was forced; his voice wasn’t natural, almost a touch too loud and shouting literally all the time. The other three actors (Christina Cole, Jennifer Mudge and Lloyd Owen) were all great, expressive and funny, but Perry was quite grating at times.
However my opinion did change slightly as the play went on: Perry’s character, Jack, is an alcoholic and therefore to be on edge all the time, shouting and not quite with it made sense for him. So there are certainly two ways of looking at it.
The play’s structure was also a bit amateurish at the very start, with opening monologues from each of the four players to explain a bit about themselves before diving into the scene proper. This just felt a bit drama school and lazy, instead of having the characters explained naturally during the story. However, Owen’s brief monologue got a huge laugh and after this everything runs smoothly.
The set was simple but effective, with beds and bar booths that roll out to make just three locations in the first act, and two rooms of a hospital in the second which are cleverly split using light and dark.
Overall the play is an excellent chance for Perry to get his moment in the spotlight again with material that is genuinely funny. Don’t expect perfection, but you can definitely expect a good night.