John Beatty's Review of
Federer vs. Murray
By Gerda Stevenson
A play in one act and five scenes
Federer vs. Murray takes its name from two famous professional tennis players: a Swiss, Roger Federer and a Scot Andrew "Andy" Murray. The idea of competition as a metaphor for struggle is particularly potent as the play considers the conflict of emotions, of ideas, of interpretations of history and of philosophies. Starting at the level of a tennis match (and who roots for whom) through the complexities of family life up to the nature of wars, the play manages to weave these ideas together skillfully into a tapestry that shows the impact of events on individuals in their relationships with one another and their own personal lives. It is a multileveled play in which the levels interact while metaphorically representing one another. The battles between a husband and wife, a tennis match between two men from different countries, a war between two different countries are made parallel while also impacting on the two main characters in the play.
Very near the start of the play there is a joke based on a misunderstanding of a line in a song. The wife, Flo (Gerda Stevenson) misreads the line and her husband, James Stewart (Dave Anderson) points out the error. Mrs. Stewarts Interpretation of line gives new and different meaning to the text. So it will be for the rest of play where differences in interpretation of events lead to conflict and emotional stress for the couple as each of them tries in their own way to make some sense out of a world that seems to be running amok and which makes communication between people increasingly more difficult.
The play is set in a sitting room in a small modest flat in the industrial central belt of Scotland. The set is well designed with walls that, at appropriate moments, become transparent. Later, in the final scene, the flat is transformed into an outdoor snow covered landscape.
The story deals with a couple, for whom there is an event in their past which is kept hidden from the audience, yet which motivates much of what happens in the play. As the play progresses the audience becomes more and more aware of how this event (and its interpretation) is impacting the relationship they have with one another.
The play is powerful, thoughtful and insightful. It has moments of humor and genuine pathos. In its brief 55 minutes the performers run a gamut of emotions as each of the two characters tries to handle their own psychological traumas and to find ways of dealing them.
The play is performed without intermission and basically in a single setting - a living room Between the changes of scene saxophonist Ben Bryden produces some remarkably effective music on his sax which resonates with aspects of the plot.
Author Gerda Stevenson plays the wife in the failing marriage. Dave Anderson tackles the role of James Stewart, the husband.
Federer vs. Murray was presented at 59E59 Theaters in a small intimate setting which seems particularly effective in keeping the audience involved with the two characters and focusing on the personal level rather than the more complex socio-political levels which emerge.
A fine touch was added when copies of Skidmore College's journal, Salmagundi, were handed out to the audience which contained the script for the play.
Next month's issue will have a review of David Harrower's fine play A Slow Air which has been playing at the 59E59 theater complex on East 59th Street in NYC. and closes its run on April 29. The play is moving to the Tricycle in London where it will run from the 8th of May until the 2nd of June. Lewis Howden and Susan Vidler will continue in the roles as Athol and Morna.
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