“Closer” is currently playing at Silver Spring Stage in a co-production with Cogent Theater Collective, a newly formed professional theatre company based in Silver Spring. The play is written by Partick Marber, produced by Diego Maramba, and directed by David Dieudonne. “Closer” was on Broadway in 1999 after a successful London run and nominated for a Tony for Best Play. It was also a fairly successful adapted movie directed by Mike Nichols with an all-star cast.
You will be absorbed in the entanglements of the plot, enjoy the performances, and find yourself talking about the play after it is over. It is a fine debut…
“Closer” is a melodrama about love and sex. The importance or irrelevance of truth in our lives and relationships is the prevailing theme. It asks the question, “Why isn’t love enough?” as expressed by one of the characters. Alice (Shana Laski) meets Dan (Matt Baughman), who writes obituaries, when he saves her after she is almost hit by a car in London. Alice is American and a stripper and significantly younger than Dan. They have a relationship for a while when Dan meets Anna (Marnie Kanarek), a photographer who likes to take photos of strangers. Dan is immediately attracted to Anna, and they have an affair. During this time, Anna meets Larry (Matt J. Bannister), a dermatologist who is a bit older than Anna and Dan. They soon, too, have a relationship. Suffice it to say, complications ensue, but yet are somehow predictable.
“Closer” is about three selfish people whose own sexual gratification and need for honesty underscores their self-absorption. The three older characters, who have been in many relationships and marriages, have no children. They really don’t seem to have much family or any close friends in their lives. Anna, Dan, and Larry are three shallow people leading unhappy lives. Alice may be the only one who is not hung up on truth and is more altruistic than the others. In the end, she is the only character for whom we have any sympathy or empathy. The two male characters are obsessed with sex and have a compulsion to be the only one in their lovers’ lives who is physically intimate with them. The women seem to be striving for something more meaningful, but Anna is not any less selfish than the men.
Laski brings a refreshing sexuality to her role as Alice. Baughman’s Dan is just a shallow as the playwright wanted. Bannister is at his best when playing the jilted husband. He never makes him very likable which is the intent. Kanarek is the cool and aloof Anna who is looking for something more, but not quite ever finding it. Bannister and Laski are top notch, full of brimming sexuality and angst in their scene at the strip club. The scene between Kanarek, Bannister, and Baughman works creditably.
This production is a Covid-halted one and I am not sure if this affected the performance I saw. Despite sitting close to the stage in this intimate theatre, there were some issues. At times, some of the actors were very difficult to hear and moments of humor were lost.
The constant moving of furniture, especially a large couch and a love seat by the crew in between almost every scene, caused some tittering in the audience toward the end of the play. There was applause for the crew for doing it so often and never stumbling or dropping the furniture. These constant set changes also led to very long scene breaks and sometimes upstaged the images projected on the stage.
I really enjoyed the music in the background thanks to sound designer Matthew Datcher. Jeffery Asjes’ set is geometrical and visually interesting, but I wish there had been a solution to constant moving of furniture. Don Slater did an admirable job as lighting designer.
“Closer” may be more relevant to different audiences but, at times, appears a little dated. What was sexually shocking in the 1990s is not so today. Perhaps audiences have become more callous to vulgarity and complacent to sexually graphic scenes. This play does give us some new insight to those people who never seem to be happy. You will be absorbed in the entanglements of the plot, enjoy the performances, and find yourself talking about the play after it is over. It is a fine debut for Cogent Theater Collective.
Running Time: Two hours and 20 minutes with a 15-minute intermission.
Advisory: The play is recommended for mature audiences and includes course and sexualized language, shaming, threats of violence, states of undress, and an act of domestic violence.
“Closer” runs through May 21, 2022 on weekends, co-produced by Silver Spring Stage and Cogent Theater Collective at Silver Spring Stage, Woodmoor Shopping Center, 10145 Colesville Road, Silver Spring, Maryland 20901. Go to this link for tickets. Silver Spring Stage requires a photo ID, proof of vaccination, and masking in the theatre.