“I would rather drink alcohol than do just about anything there is to do on the face of the planet,” Matthew Perry as Jack says to a woman he’s just met in “The End of Longing,” Perry’s debut play. “I drink for every occasion, both bad or good. I like it more than sports, more than family, and — present company excluded — I like it more than women. “
That line is the most intriguing in Perry’s play, preparing us for what in retrospect seems inevitable — Jack’s struggle to overcome his alcoholism, culminating in his emotionally naked confession at an AA meeting. Writing this play, and performing in it, seems an act of courage, since Perry, who rose to fame as one of the stars of TV’s “Friends,” has not kept secret his own struggles with addiction. But Perry’s bravery and his star appeal, along with Lindsay Posner’s swift direction and the competence of the three other cast members, help make MCC’s production of “The End of Longing” come off as better than the script deserves.
“The End of Longing” reflects the flaws of a first-time playwright, and then some.
His characters are all one-note – a drunk, a dope, a neurotic and a hooker with a heart of gold. The woman he picks up in the bar, Stephanie (Jennifer Morrison) turns out to be a “high-end escort,” a job she’s held for ten years. Her best friend Stevie (Sue Jean Kim) is a neurotic 37-year-old, who desperately wants a baby. In a convenient coincidence, Jack’s best friend Jeffrey (Quincy Dunn-Baker) has just slept with Stevie, and she gets pregnant. Jeffrey is a construction worker who is so dumb, Stevie complains, “he thought Jurassic Park was a documentary.” The bulk of the ninety-minute play is the two newly formed couples working out their problems and their relationships. Very little of it feels plausible.
This is largely because much of the dialogue is stilted and strained, especially the attempts at humor.
“I want a baby,” Stevie says in the first scene, in the bar where the four first meet. “I want a baby right now.”
“Right now?” Jack says. “Cause I haven’t sterilized my hands.”
The End of Longing
MCC at Lucille Lortel
Written by Matthew Perry
Directed by Lindsay Posner
Set Design by Derek McLane
Lighting Design by Ben Stanton
Costume Design by Sarah Laux
Sound Design by Ryan Rumery
Cast: Matthew Perry as Jack, Quincy Dunn-Baker as Jeffrey, Sue Jean Kim as Stevie, Jennifer Morrison as Stephanie.
Running time: 90 minutes, no intermission
Tickets: $49 to $125
“The End of Longing” is set to run through July 1, 2017.