Directed by Patrick Belics
At The Den Theatre
Presented by Spartan Theatre Company
“Anna: Please don’t hate me.
Larry: It’s easier than loving you.”
A lackluster comedy of desires.
Closer is an attempt by writer Patrick Marber to give a comedic take on the revolving game of modern heterosexual relationships. It is a raw, in-your-face performance of four characters (two male and two female), and their intertwining attempt to find companionship in each other while balancing their unreserved sexual appetites. The young Spartan Theatre Company has put on an effortful production of Closer, but ultimately falls short of giving a truly convincing performance.
The play takes place in late-90’s London. It opens with a chance meet-up between Dan (Matt Pratt) and Alice (Poppy Garland). Dan writes obits for a local paper and Alice is the young, free-spirited American. Dan is a quiet and “reserved” man, yet is instantly falls for the exotic counterpart he meets in Alice. She even inspires Dan to write a book based on her life. Soon we meet the funniest character in a doctor named Larry (Brian Grey), and a photographer named Anna (Brianne Duncan Fiore). As Anna meets Dan to photograph him for his book they instantly connect. She reluctantly falls for Dan’s now bold personality (invigorated by Alice, no doubt), but refuses to pursue anything further despite Dan’s persistence. In the funniest scene in the play Dan poses in an internet sex chatroom as a woman and tricks Larry into going to meet Anna in person. The two of them quickly hit things off and fall in love. We then follow a back and forth between the couples switching for what must be several years.
The performances of these characters are mixed, as is the story. The cast does accents well. They hint at the English accent making sure you know they’re English without going too far to make it difficult to understand. However, Pratt speaks Dan’s lines softly, especially in the opening scene, which can make him difficult to understand. I was sitting in the front row, so I can only imagine sitting in the back and trying to hear him. Grey’s performance as Larry has the opposite problem. He often overacts and speaks with too loud. Some lines come across as shouting. Fiore and Golland speak their lines for Anna and Allice well, with Fiore giving the most steady performance throughout the show. Additionally the play is under paced and the delivery of the dialogue often fails to find the cadence of normal speech.
Unfortunately, the play drags on too long and loses its comedic charm. What begins as a funny, modern setup of two relationships goes back and forth between the couples too often falls into a series of never ending dramatic arguments. Some things in the story do not make logical sense Dan’s personality after the opening scene makes a complete 180 degree turn without enough development, and Anna keeps falling for him without any plausible reason. Unlike Larry, Dan is not a likable person and yet Anna chooses him instead of Larry without explanation. The play continues down that path for far too long and ends without a way to resolve the characters and their struggles. In the end it fails to be a satisfying comedy or drama.
The production is not totally without merit. Despite some issues with the story, the writing is often funny and clever. While sometimes overacted, Grey shows immense talent in playing the comedic nuances of his character Larry, and Fiore gives a convincing performance of Anna. Closer is meant for adult audiences who enjoy sexual humor, yet also appreciate intense relationship drama. The Spartan Theatre Company’s production of Closer has its issues, but is worth some good laughs for those who wish to see it.
Date reviewed: July 12, 2014
For more information visit the Closer page at theatreinchicago.com
At The Den Theatre, 1333 N Milwaukee Ave, Chicago, IL, call 773-398-7028, tickets $15, July 11-26 7:30PM July 13, 20, 27 3:00PM, running time is 2 hours and 40 minutes including a 10 minute intermission.