Virtual Theater Review: THE LAST MATCH (Writers Theatre)

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by Tony Frankel on May 20, 2021

in Theater-Chicago,Virtual


Finally! A virtual theater production that actually feels like I’m in a theater. Not only that, but Writers’ production of Anna Ziegler’s The Last Match is intuitively directed as theater-as-cinema by Keira Fromm, and ferociously acted by a perfectly cast pile-driving ensemble. Here’s more proof for the world to see how great Chicago theater is. The short runs ends on May 30, 2021, so hop to it.

Dueling it out at the US Open is Sergei (pretty bad boy Christopher Sheard), the young Russian upstart longing to crack the top 10, and Tim (Ryan Hallahan, alarmingly like Pete Sampras), the long-reigning top-ranked American champion. The Last Match swells with intensity and poetic undertones as it courses through 90 minutes with increasing velocity, asking big questions about the human condition. Love and loss, past and present are always in tension as Tim and his wife, Mallory (the moving Kayla Carter), in conjunction with Sergei and his strong-willed fiancée, Galina (played with moxie by Heather Chrisler), relive joys and losses.

The more we learn about each player’s backstory (and that of their female partner), the greater becomes our awareness of human frailty. Mallory’s heartbreaking struggle to have children, and Galina’s emotionally deprived girlhood in Russia, fuel each woman’s determination to live despite pain and disappointments, while raising the stakes for their male partners.

In this one-act Ziegler has characters stepping out of current time to relive key events from their unfolding pasts as orphaned children, cocky junior players, reckless lovers, marriage partners and grief-stricken young parents, always with a keen eye on inescapable death — equating tennis with life, athletic striving with human struggle, and delivering a deft, luminous play.

photos by Jim Cox

The Last Match
streaming from Writers Theatre in Glencoe (Chicago)
ends on May 30, 2021
for tickets, call 847-242-6000 or visit Writers Theatre

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