Venue: Assembly George Square Theatre
Despite the title, James Fritz’s one-person duologue bears very little connection to the hit TV show Friends. Instead, Ross & Rachel is a much more serious look at relationships that exposes the myth of the perfect couple. There are a few well-timed nods to Friends which predictably result in plenty of laughs from the audience, but Ross & Rachel is generally confident enough in its own ability to entertain to avoid piggybacking on the popularity of the American sitcom – it could be about any relationship turned sour. It’s a much better show for it and Fritz delivers a starkly real story that leaves a lasting impression.
As the show’s only actor, Molly Vevers gives a powerhouse performance and switches between characters with ease. Several lines are addressed directly to members of the audience – Ross & Rachel possesses an unusual intimacy that the size of Vevers’ performance space helps to shape. The design of the stage is simple yet effective. Vevers delivers the first part of the script while standing behind a pool of water surrounded by a circle of candles. As the play progresses, the water is cleverly used to highlight the increasing sense of tension.
Rachel can come across as cold at times due to her pessimistic observations of other couples and her lack of empathy for Ross. However, Vevers generally convinces the audience to see Rachel’s point of view so that her bitterness is understandable in light of Ross’ possessiveness. The pair are presented as realistic characters that rarely feel one dimensional. However, Ross’ request towards the end makes his character a little less believable and he tends to be presented less favourably than Rachel. His fear of being alone alongside Rachel’s ruminations about what life would be like without him make the play as much about what it means to be lonely as it is about couples.
The script’s structure takes some getting used to – it’s a bit difficult to tell exactly who’s supposed to be speaking at the beginning of the play. However, the confusion also effectively conveys how Ross and Rachel have seemingly merged into one being in the eyes of the people around them, much to Rachel’s frustration. There are a few moments where the script could be more concise – a joke involving multiple offers of coffee is drawn out for too long before reaching a devastating conclusion – but Fritz’s writing is generally astute and insightful. Ross and Rachel’s interactions offer a clever portrayal between the common mismatch between what people say and what they’re really thinking.
Ross & Rachel is a well-crafted piece of theatre that can be a bit erratic at times but it compels more than it confuses and its cynicism is refreshing.