Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

'Last Match' Is a Win-Win

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

'Last Match' Is a Win-Win

Article excerpt

If you follow tennis at all, you will feel a sense of familiarity with the tennis players caught up in the epic contest of "The Last Match."

For a moment, forget what the actors look like and forget the backstories created for them by playwright Anna Ziegler. Sergei Sergeyev clearly is patterned after the world's No. 1 player, Novak Djokovic, and Tim Porter, just as clearly, is channeling the No. 3 player at age 34, Roger Federer.

The clever and effective conceit of "The Last Match," as directed by Tracy Brigden at City Theatre, is how it sums up the lives of the players by flowing from a U.S. Open match to flashbacks and back again, with all the insight of the best Sports Illustrated articles. The ebb and flow of game, life, game carefully reveals the inner workings of two men going in opposite directions in their careers.

Sergei is the showy role, a frenetic man-child with a heavy accent who cracks himself up and whose antics amuse everyone except his doting, demanding girlfriend. JD Taylor and Robin Abramson - her accent puts me in mind of Natasha from "Rocky and Bullwinkle," in a good way - form a fine comedic team as lovers who spar and make up as a matter of course.

Here is Sergei on the love of his life: "Galina was in my box, just going crazy. ... She is happy but still looks as though she might kill someone. And that is Galina at her most contained."

In his introspective moments, though, Sergei is always the boy who wants more. He left his parents in a poor fishing village at age 9 to become a tennis star. Now, as a 25-year-old phenom, he is still striving and still haunted by the past.

On the other side of the court, Tim Porter - Sergei always refers to him by his full name - grew up in a seemingly adversity-free, country club atmosphere, married the love of his life and won enough titles to fill several trophy cases. …

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