Ross & Rachel, Edinburgh Festival Fringe

Confession: I don’t like Friends. I find the acting two-dimensional, the jokes not funny and it bears no reflection on real life in New York City, where I spent four happy years at drama school. So I was reluctant to see MOTOR’s Ross & Rachel, because I thought it’s about the couple from Friends.

PRO TIP: Ross & Rachel doesn’t have anything to do with Friends, not really.

To boil down what this solo show featuring two characters is about feels reductive, because there’s a lot in there. Playwright James Fritz fits an entire relationship and its issues spanning many years into an hour, but it doesn’t feel crowded or rushed. This piece focusing on a middle-aged couple’s ups and downs from beginning to lonely end will speak to anyone who has ever been in a relationship. For me, the theme of a partner’s premature mortality is particularly resonant.

Molly Vevers plays both characters in this relentless, rapid-fire dialogue, deservedly earning The Stage Award for Acting Excellence in week one of the fringe. She is a captivating watch and a consummate professional, endeavoring to complete the performance after a woman in the audience fainted, right in the middle of the highly emotional end. She directly engages with the audience, personalizing this “every-couple’s” story and their need to connect with others outside themselves, particularly as one of them becomes more and more ill.

The meaning of the shallow pool Vevers first tentatively steps in is made clear towards the end, but its initial incorporation feels artificial. Director Thomas Martin otherwise does an excellent job through differentiating the two characters voiced by a single performer and maintaining audience focus with pace and energy. His casting choice is an interesting one, though. Vevers’ talent is unquestionable, but the characters she plays are middle aged. Vevers looks no older than 25. I wonder how the tone of this piece would have changed if she matched the ages of the characters.

Regardless, this is a lovely piece that plays on the audience’s emotions, without becoming overly sentimental, and gently explores their relationship with the performer in an intimate venue.

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