It’s the semi-finals of the U.S. Open—there are bright lights, high stakes, and screams from adoring fans. You see the desperation in the players’ eyes and hear the ball being volleyed across the court. But in FST’s Regional Premiere of Anna Ziegler’s fast-paced drama, The Last Match, you also get an exclusive look into the athletes’ innermost thoughts and feelings as they play in one of the most important games of their careers.
Called “Gripping” and “A nail-biter” by The New York Times, The Last Match takes audiences from the game itself into the players’ lives and memories off the court.
Tim Porter, the American golden boy, is facing the young Russian upstart Sergei Sergeyev. Though Tim is only in his 30s, tennis has taken its toll and he finds himself increasingly in pain. He’s at a crossroads: does he retire and leave behind the only life he ever knew? Or, does he keep playing, knowing his time as the best will soon end?
“Tim is an incredibly dedicated, intense individual with a hyper focus,” said Tom Patterson, who plays Tim in FST’s production. “That focus has put his life on a track that he has never really questioned until this point. Tim and I are about the same age and, for me and my contemporaries, we're probably considered "mid-career" in our respective fields. But for athletes like Tim, even though they are relatively young, they are largely considered well past their prime.”
Sergei, played by Michael Perrie Jr., doesn’t suffer from health problems like Tim, but similarly wonders whether it’s worth it for ambition to swallow life, as he finds himself more involved in the game than in living beyond it. Tim grapples with these questions mid-serve, while Sergei lobs back questions of his own about sacrifice and success.
“Sergei is a passionate, funny, strong, but impatient man who knows tennis better than he knows himself,” said Perrie Jr., who was last seen playing Buddy Holly in FST’s hit production of Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story. “He’s someone whose drive for the game he loves has become who he is…and he’s realizing he wants more.”
For Sergei, the person who helps him realize this is Galina, a no-nonsense Russian woman who may not know the pressures of professional tennis firsthand but means business. Tim’s wife Mallory, on the other hand, is a former tennis star who gave up her career after an injury but remains tough and driven. Over the course of the play, audiences get to know Galina and Mallory, and better understand the role they play in each athlete’s life.
“I find the story of the women fascinating,” said show director Kate Alexander. “The wives (and partners) of athletes or any successful man are often integral to their success—they are a team. But I wonder, at what cost? For some, they have a shared vision and it is comfortable, but for others, like Mallory, who left her career, there are emotional prices that affect her well-being. The Last Match brings this theme closer to home, inspiring us to ask, ‘What do we sacrifice and at what cost?’”
The Last Match uses tennis as a backdrop to play out and explore life’s universal questions—for sports players and non-athletes alike.
After Perrie Jr., read the script, he started thinking, “What will I leave behind when I stop performing…can I stop? It’s difficult to pour your heart, your soul, and your whole self into a career.”
For anyone who has ever questioned their career’s place in their life, how much is too much to want, and what it truly means to win, The Last Match serves up an emotional and entertaining ride.
The Last Match played in FST's Bowne's Lab from February 22 - March 17, 2023.