Critics Not Friendly to Matthew Perry

updated 05/15/2003 at 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 05/15/2003 12:00PM

It was '70s attire and swagger for Matthew Perry, Minnie Driver and Hank Azaria Wednesday night in London's West End, where the star trio opened in a stage production of the vintage David Mamet's play "Sexual Perversity in Chicago," reports PEOPLE's London bureau.

Clad in the loud, gaudy clothes of the decade -- and sometimes wearing much less than that -- the cast traded sharp sexual banter in a series of vignettes about dating.

But despite the high visibility of the production -- "Friends," with Perry, is a big hit in England, too -- reviews of the show were decidedly mixed.

Declared the headline in the Daily Telegraph: "'Friends' star's dark side fails to emerge in dull sex 'shocker.'"

"The acting ranges from the barely competent to the goodish," wrote Nicholas de Jongh of the Evening Standard. Another reviewer called it "big names stuck in a thin story."

Most of the acting praise landed on the head of Azaria, whose Chicago accent and fast-talking one-liners kept the audience chuckling.

"We laugh a lot, we really do laugh a lot," Azaria, 39, told PEOPLE. "We've had a good time with each other. Plus, I've gotten to see everybody naked."

In "Sexual Perversity," Perry (who missed costar Matt LeBlanc's wedding in Hawaii because he was in rehearsal) plays the role of Danny, an office worker who falls in love with Deborah, played by Kelly Reilly. For a few scenes, Perry strips down to the bare essentials with Reilly, who is also naked from the waist up.

Asked what it's like to work with a big name like Perry, Reilly had only one word: "Fantastic."

The cast has been rehearsing since the beginning of April, keeping up a grueling schedule of six-day workweeks.

Driver, 31, who plays Reilly's caustic and wise-to-the-world roommate, says she didn't have any opening night superstitions. "I just tried not to get sick," she told PEOPLE. "I did that for luck."

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