Theater review by Raven Snook
Champion athletes are supposed to keep their heads in the game. But the tennis pros in The Last Match have minds that wander way out of bounds as they contemplate family, mortality and other major life questions. Anna Ziegler’s allegorical one-act takes place at a U.S. Open semifinal between a beloved American golden boy (Wilson Bethel) on the cusp of retirement and a volatile Russian up-and-comer (Alex Mickiewicz). Between mimed depictions of game play, the competitors share their triumphs and challenges, both on and off the court; their significant others, played respectively by Zoë Winters and Natalia Payne, comment from the sidelines and also appear in flashbacks.
Despite Gaye Taylor Upchurch’s energetic direction, The Last Match has a familiar feel. Ziegler serves insults and insights with impressive velocity, but the play doesn’t offer much new spin on its central questions about winning, disappointment and pressure. Mickiewicz and Payne, who originated their roles at San Diego’s Old Globe Theatre last year and get most of the best comic exchanges, give ace performances; so do Bethel and Winters, whose arc is more melancholy. When the play’s balls stay in the air, it’s largely thanks to these four talented players.
Laura Pels Theatre (Off Broadway). By Anna Ziegler. Directed by Gaye Taylor Upchurch. With ensemble cast. Running time: 1hr 35mins. No intermission. Through December 24.