This New York premiere marks Roundabout’s first collaboration with Anna, though I have long admired her body of work. From her play Photograph 51, which played on the West End in 2015 and follows the story of renowned physicist Rosalind Franklin’s fight for scientific recognition, to A Delicate Ship, which ran at The Playwrights Realm in 2015 and explores the existential underpinnings of young love and lust, Anna’s work proves her willingness to confront all the complexities and contradictions within her characters. There are no easy answers in her plays; she faces the beauty and ugliness of her stories head-on, relentlessly mining the scenarios she renders for their deepest layers. Her plays investigate new perspectives in a way that always surprises and thrills me, and, like all great theatre, her work never fails to enrich and complicate my familiarity with subjects I thought I already understood.
And The Last Match is no exception. Set during the semifinals of the US Open, Anna’s electric play follows two professional tennis players who have put everything on the line for their game. Inspired by the real-life career paths of some of the sport’s biggest icons, The Last Match delves into the pressures and stresses placed on players who, due to the short-lived nature of a profession that demands retirement at an early age, must race against time to achieve their dreams. For sure, in every game there is a great deal of money, reputation, and glory at stake, but Anna’s play hones in more specifically on what her characters, after sacrificing so much in the name of perfecting their craft, owe to their families and to themselves. With so much riding on every serve and every return, tennis -- one of the most solitary of sports -- can become an internal maelstrom of doubt, euphoria, and nostalgia. By tracing the inner tribulations of her characters, Anna meticulously unpacks how a tennis match can spiral into an all-out war.
By expertly unpacking the truth and humanity from within this fictional tennis match, Anna exposes so much about the nature of ambition and competition regardless of profession or field. American workaday culture is infamous for its glorification of stress, workaholism, and burnout; it’s not only athletes who risk the health of their family, their friendships, and themselves in the name of success. Anna’s play deftly explores what happens when the pressures of an incredibly driven lifestyle clash with the demands of familial relationships and personal care. With a play that is both characteristically nuanced and propulsively acrobatic, Anna asks us all to examine the reality behind our cultural obsession with competition, recognition, and victory.
I am thrilled for you to experience Anna’s wonderful play, mounted by this exceptionally talented creative team. This is such a captivating story, and I couldn’t be more excited to share with you Gaye Taylor Upchurch’s remarkable work in bringing it to a New York stage for the first time. As always, I am eager to hear your reactions to the show, so please continue to email me at ArtisticOffice@roundabouttheatre.org with your thoughts. I can’t tell you how greatly I value your feedback.
I look forward to seeing you at the theatre!
2017-2018 Season, From Todd Haimes, The Last Match