An Upset Entertaining and Clever
On the Verge Festival’s Hilariously Dark Commentary on Professional Sports
As the Wimbledon Championships came to a close this past weekend, it was only fitting that the actors of Jeffrey Meek Studios put on a performance of An Upset, a short play highlighting two professional tennis players’ struggles on and off the court.
The dark comedy is a product of Pulitzer prize-winning playwright David Auburn, whose name may be recognized by some for his 2000 play Proof, which was awarded a Tony Award, and his screenplays The Lake House (2006) and The Girl in the Park (2007).
On Saturday, July 11, play attendees sipped wine and nibbled on food provided at the outdoor venue on Ashley Road in Montecito as they waited eagerly for the show to begin. As dusk settled overhead and the mosquitos grew more persistent, director Jeff Meek welcomed all to the weekend’s second performance of An Upset.
An Upset is certainly an accurate name for Auburn’s play, as the first scene opens with American veteran tennis pro (played by Ryan Sweeney) clearly frustrated with his loss to rising Romanian tennis star (played by Andrew Cowell) in a qualifying tournament. Consoling his loss with alcohol and curse words directed at the newer player and the rules of the game, the American’s woes were too humorous to warrant sympathy.
“We sure love an underdog,” the American player bitterly informed the Romanian who, in a twist of fate was the protégé of his coach, whom the American had beaten in the Australia Open years earlier.
The relationship between the two characters proved to be as dynamic as the outcomes of each tennis tournament described by the players. Like the changing power plays exhibited on the tennis court, both men’s clamor for victory and fan adoration was evident as the humble Romanian from Bucharest became less green under the hot-headed but more experienced American.
As both players move on in the tournaments and eventually to Wimbledon, they find themselves swapping tips that go beyond improving a backhand and more toward engaging in the cushy sport celebrity lifestyle.
Although An Upset utilized a range of technical tennis jargon, one need not be well-versed in the sport to identify the play’s underlying moral, which manifested itself in the play’s ironic turn: Don’t hate the player, hate the game.
An Upset was a brief performance of only three scenes, but an entertainingly clever one with believable acting. Both Sweeney and Cowell plan on performing An Upset at the U.S. Open in Flushing Meadows in August and one in Los Angeles in early October.