THE LAST MATCH at the Writers Theater
THE LAST MATCH by Writers Theater focuses on the inner lives of two world-famous tennis players, Tim Porter (Ryan Hallahan) from the United States and Sergei Sergeyev (Christopher Sheard) from Russia. The concept of interiority at the heart of Anna Ziegler’s play – and the fact that THE LAST MATCH has only four characters – makes it a particularly keen theatrical production to stage for the purpose of broadcasting at home. Keira Fromm’s direction plays out the narrative elements of Ziegler’s script – Tim and Sergei frequently use the direct address to communicate with the audience. Matt Hoffman’s television direction balances close-ups and wider shots well.
Ziegler plays with the central concept of duality in THE LAST MATCH – as a figurative device focused on the divide between the public and private lives of professional athletes and also dividing the game between partnerships on and off the field. The play alternates between scenes between Tim and Sergei in the last titular game at the US Open, prompting a rumor that Tim, 34, may be retiring soon, and Tim and Sergei’s relationship with their partners, Mallory (Kayla Carter) and Galina (Heather Chrisler). It’s a smart setup, and of course it deepens the question of whether the sacrifices to be a professional tennis player (or a player’s life partner) are really worth it.
Cleverly, Ziegler’s storyline does not require the audience to have an in-depth knowledge of tennis to understand the game or the immense importance of the sport in THE LAST MATCH. In fact, no tennis racket, no ball or no net is taken into account in the scenography of William Boles. Instead, the set features royal blue flooring with crisp white lines to symbolize a tennis court. Tim and Sergei never steal real balls, but rather Steph Paul’s choreography involves movement reminiscent of a tennis match. It’s a smart stylistic choice because it keeps the game from getting too literal. Likewise, the smooth movements in the staging are well suited for streaming purposes.
THE LAST MATCH derives its greatest level of emotion from the fact that it lays bare the inner lives of Tim and Sergei for the audience. Rarely, if ever, in real life do we get to see into the minds of our favorite professional athletes. THE LAST MATCH makes Tim and Sergei’s emotions and vulnerability its centerpiece, and when the game delves into their motivations, it’s most powerful. Mallory and Galina’s character arcs are also rooted in vulnerability, especially as we see Mallory struggling to achieve her goal of becoming a parent.
While THE LAST MATCH is a nice reminder of the humanity possessed by professional athletes, such imminent public figures, Ziegler also tries to touch on almost every aspect of pro-athlete life in the game: conflict between life. professional and personal injury to players. and chronic pain, family sacrifices, etc. This “everything but the kitchen sink” approach to exploring the lives of tennis players means that some of the themes touch on more than others.
The good performance, however, ensures that themes that land really resonate. Hallahan embodies Tim self-confident and endlessly devoted to his sport, so enamored of playing the game. Hallahan shows us every moment of Tim’s motivation and the fact that he soaks up the admiration that comes from being in the game. public eyes, and he takes us for the ride with Tim’s willingness to give tennis his all – even at the cost of his health. and sometimes his relationship with Mallory. As Tim’s wife Mallory, Carter easily switches between playful and flirtatious in flashbacks to the early days of their relationship with a woman genuinely haunted by pain and loss after suffering multiple miscarriages.
As Sergei, Sheard is a great sheet for Tim (and I noted that the Christmas Huntzinger costume design cleverly includes Tim in Adidas and Sergei in Nike). He delivers his lines with aplomb and he strongly expresses the determination of his character. Chrisler is just as sexy as Galina, and she has terrific comedic timing.
THE LAST GAME ultimately serves best as a reminder of the humanity of professional athletes, and that it would be wise to remember both the physical and emotional sacrifices that often come with the love of the game.
Stream THE LAST MATCH at Writer’s Theater until May 30. Tickets range from $ 40 (solo viewer) to $ 100 (4 viewers and more). Visit writerstheatre.org/the-last-match.
Photo courtesy of the Writers Theater
Review by Rachel Weinberg