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Federer Versus Murray

Gerda Stevenson's play incisively deals with a couple facing a great loss in very different ways.

By New York City
Gerda Stevenson and Dave Anderson
in Federer Versus Murray
(Courtesy Communicado Theatre Company)
Gerda Stevenson and Dave Anderson
in Federer Versus Murray
(Courtesy Communicado Theatre Company)
In the commendably compact play Federer Versus Murray, now at 59E59 Theaters, the real match is not between the titutlar tennis stars, but between Flo (Gerda Stevenson, who wrote and directed) and Jimmy (Dave Anderson), a married couple who have suffered a great loss. What that loss is surfaces slowly as the tension mounts during the play's 55 minutes, so it won't be revealed here.

However, during the work's several scenes, Flo takes increasing exception to Jimmy's exclamations while he takes in the Federer-Murray contests he can't get enough of. She's also offended at his listening to the world news as well as clipping reports from the local newspaper on global occurrences, particularly the war in Afghanistan and Scotland's part in it.

Stevenson's major accomplishment is that she sees how a sorrowful event can affect two people who clearly care for each other so that the difference in their responses can drive them so dramatically apart. She also incisively depicts how the one wishing to move on estranges the one who believes going forward is heartless.

While her characters argue heatedly and sometimes even come to blows, Stevenson doesn't fail to see the occasional humorous aspects of their lives. Besides wanting Flo and him to travel to Federer's Switzerland and even climb the Matterhorn, Jimmy orders and receives a cardigan with his hero's "RF" logo on it. Amused as well as annoyed by it, Flo notes that "it's acrylic" -- a comment that doesn't go far towards clearing the air.

Even more entertaining (while also being symbolically significant) is a sequence where Jimmy and Flo, who favors homeboy Murray, prepare for a match by painting their faces. Jimmy daubs the Swiss flag on himself and Flo, the Scottish flag.

Although they intend the interlude to be a needed calm in their more combative routine, it isn't long before they're battling each other and looking like nothing more than warriors in Mel Gibson's Braveheart. The tussle is simultaneously funny and frightening, and Stevenson's point isn't lost that ancient national traits will eventually come to the fore, diminishing societal veneers.

Stevenson is highly effective, especially when portraying Flo's fatigue and frustration dealing with a demanding work schedule and a husband who refuses to sympathize with her moods and whom she refuses to let touch her. A big man with a face like a red sun, Anderson balances Jimmy's sometime obtuseness with his genuine love for his wife and conviction that the only route to renewed happiness for them is going forward.


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