Spotlight: Closer

If all is yellow to the jaundiced eye, then Patrick Marber's drama about a romantic rectangle views romantic love through a lens smeared generously with mustard. The action begins on a London street, when shy newspaper obituary writer Dan (Nate Hessburg) meets the beauteous young Alice (Emily Blanchard), who has just been hit by a taxi. They flirt outrageously in the emergency room, stopping only for Alice to bum a cigarette from a doctor named Larry (Jeromy Adler). The play proceeds to hopscotch through time, and in the next scene Dan is at the studio of photographer Anna (Marcia Svaleson) getting a head shot taken for his about-to-be-published novel based on Alice's wacky life and times. Hessburg captures Dan's considerably increased self-confidence, as Dan attempts to seduce Anna moments before Alice (now his girlfriend) is due to arrive. From here matters go through all sorts of wrenching convolutions. On a lark, Dan semi-intentionally sets up Anna and Larry on an internet sex site, and the two become a couple, and *CHK then marry. Anna, unable to leave well enough alone, begins an affair with Dan, who eventually spurns Alice, who becomes a wig-wearing stripper, in which get-up she meets Larry (who is devastated over losing Anna, though he deviously engineers a mercy fuck from his estranged wife that effectively throws a spanner into things between her and Dan). It all sounds impossibly complicated, and it is, but director Matthew Greseth and his cast generate strong feelings and touches of humor. Executed with no real set and few props, this staging focuses the attention on the actors and the way they navigate the narrowing impossibility of their characters' plight. (It's a more intimate experience—a closer one, that is—than the well-reviewed screen version, which starred Clive Owen, Julia Roberts, Natalie Portman, and Jude Law.) As Alice, Blanchard walks a line between sweetness and manipulation, and Svaleson turns in a subtle and soulful performance as Anna. Adler, meanwhile, emerges as the linchpin of the thing, his character coming away at the end with the only thing approaching satisfaction—and that by virtue of Larry's cold taste for revenge and ultimate heartlessness. Love indeed bites; the only question here is how deep it gets you.

 
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