Matthew Perry Latest London Stage Star

05/02/2003 11:00AM

Next up to take his chances on the London stage: "Friends" star -- and this week's "West Wing" guest star -- Matthew Perry, who will hit the West End on Saturday in a revival of David Mamet's dramatic and highly profane "Sexual Perversity in Chicago."

And he's doing it for the experience, Perry, 33, tells Britain's Evening Standard newspaper. (After getting $1 million per episode for playing Chandler Bing, he certainly doesn't need to do it for the money.)

"In television or a movie, I bring my own ego and consequently can mess up," he says. "In theater, I learned very quickly to shut up and listen. Now I am able to get out of my own way."

As Reuters assesses, not every American star who lands in London is greeted warmly.

True, Gwyneth Paltrow and Kevin Spacey received rave reviews in their respective British productions, as did Nicole Kidman and Jessica Lange.

But the critics tossed bricks at Madonna and Gillian Anderson.

Variety theater critic Matt Wolf tells Reuters, however, that despite possible fears of what reviewers might say, "I don't think the allure of London will ever fade. ... I am sure the trend will continue, given the fact that Gillian Anderson got excoriating reviews but still played four months."

Furthermore, Wolf suggests, the distance from Hollywood is a good thing.

"If you are a relative novice to theater, then where better to begin than London? I don't think Matthew Perry has ever done a play professionally."

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