This review was originally written for EdFringeReview.com
Everyone knows the story. Ross chases Rachel to the airport. She gets off the plane. They kiss and their ten-year on-off relationship finally reaches its happy conclusion. Chandler makes a wisecrack as the six Friends leave their iconic apartment for the last time, with Jefferson Airplane tinkling wistfully in the background. But what happens next? What happens to Ross and Rachel over the next decade? How do they cope with the burdens of marriage, illness, and depression?
This one-woman play (written by James Fritz) charts the gradual disintegration of this classic fairy-tale love story, skilfully and successfully observing its hypocrisies and fallacies. Don’t take it too hard if you’re a Friends fan, though; Ross and Rachel are merely placeholders for the lies we all tell ourselves. Fritz is not aiming specifically at David Schwimmer and Jennifer Aniston, but at the unrealistic concept they – and so many others like them – embody. Ross & Rachel is a brutal, visceral assassination of ‘true love’.
Fritz presents the couple in their mid-forties. Ross is still ceaselessly devoted to the romantic poetry of their failing relationship; Rachel frustrated by her lack of independence. As the audience witnesses Rachel’s increasingly flirtatious relationship with a co-worker, Ross’ mental breakdown in the face of terminal illness, and the gradual growth of hatred where once was love, they do not just begin to question their faith in “happily-ever-after”, but watch it crumble altogether. It is powerful, sobering stuff.
It is performed spectacularly well by Molly Vevers, who alternates rapidly between the characters of Ross and Rachel in one breathless hour. Standing (and sometimes sitting) in a shallow pool of water and surrounded by a mockingly romantic ring of candles, Vevers delivers a dialogue that shifts between snatches of conversation and flashes of thought with lightning speed, sometimes acting out arguments between the ‘happy couple’, sometimes performing one side of conversations with other imaginary characters, sometimes just pouring forth torrents of words. Fritz’ script is intelligent, sensitive and subtle, and Vevers performance is nothing short of riveting.
Is the message Fritz imparts with Ross & Rachel, stripped back to its bare essentials, any more than cheap cynicism? Is it simply a brilliantly delivered elaboration on the age old question “do you believe in true love?”
Ross & Rachel is far from an irresponsible play – it is, in fact, a forceful, dynamic piece of theatre featuring a sensational performance from Vevers – but the argument it presents, despite commendably effective delivery, is thoroughly hackneyed and frustratingly one-dimensional.