Sunday, April 21, 2013

Review: (Montreal) Closer

(photo by Joseph Ste. Marie)
Let’s get Closer
Marber play steams up MainLine Theatre
by Sarah Deshaies

What is Closer? A claustrophobic tale of four people ensnared in a web of love, deceit and infidelity in modern London. We observe four people, each with a different understanding of love, truth, and kindness: a failed writer, a spritely stripper, an entrepreneurial doctor, a photographer.

Dan meets Alice after a glance in the street bridges their interest; he’s bound to her once she’s hit by a taxi in the following moments. Our other two heroes, Larry and Anna, come across each other’s paths when wiley Dan sets them up through a cyber prank. Their four lives will collide in often unpleasant ways. 

But in other moments, the production falters

Patrick Marber’s play is pure catnip for those looking to witness the vagaries and devastation of love, or to act them out. (Perhaps that’s why this is the third version I’ve seen in Montreal in recent years.) 
The writing is biting and witty, and we see more of the awkward, difficult moments in relationships than we do the sublime, lovely periods. This is a directorial debut for Alex Goldrich, who also starred as Larry in a recent version at Espace Berri.

Raw Productions’ version of the play, now at MainLine Theatre, mirrors the tumultuousness of a relationship. While at times sexy and riotous, it can also feel old and staid. 

When writer Dan (Lucas Chartier-Dessert) gets to know Alice (Karine Kerr) in a hospital waiting room, the play is fresh and flirty. When Anna (Stephanie Coco-Palermo) meets Dan as she snaps his photo, we see more magic. When Larry the doctor (Alex Gravenstein) reams out his wife Anna for her infidelity, passions are ablaze. But in other moments, the production falters: lines sound as if read by rote, a stage light flickers on and off, a British accent is dropped for a split second. The sound design is fine, with nice selections for music and background noise. However, the way the music bridges the scenes was loud and jagged.

Goldrich's performers mesh well, with Chartier-Dessert and Gravenstein excelling as the tortured male souls. 

Closer is a meditation on love and the horrible things we do for it; this version is at times polished, and sometimes messy. But the script remains as solid as it did when it was first staged in the ‘90s. Marber’s play is entertainment for the ears, and fans of his work and the 2004 film version will enjoy sinking their teeth into it.

And if I can digress for a moment... the chatroom sex scene was considered modern by the standards in the 90s, and it still does feel relevant. But I hope some enterprising writer is mining today’s digitally-enhanced, harsh dating scene for a Closer set in the 2010s.

Closer is at Mainline Theatre until April 27. 
Running time: 130 minutes, including an intermission.

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