Review: Closer (There, There Productions)

By  Ryan Kerr

I feel like the only person alive who missed the “Closer” phenomenon over 10 years ago when it first took London, then NYC, then the Silver Screen by storm.  Scene study students have monologues from this hit in their audition binders, and apparently everyone and their dog have seen it produced multiple times already.  I guess I can finally say I’ve seen what all the fuss is about myself!

When I walked into the usual residence of the Parkdale Players’ loft–turned-theatre of 46 Noble St. Unit 102, I hadn’t a clue what I was in for.  Two hours later, I had witnessed an elegantly crafted collapse between four lovers, and wondered if there was a better way to see it than in a converted 1-bedroom apartment.

Closer stars four characters who weave in and out of each others’ lives in a sort of “love parallelogram” (as in too many participants to be a triangle).  The pro/antagonist, Alice, meets Daniel, and at first appears to be the manipulative vixen, but as the story develops, we see she isn’t the only one.  All four characters (and admittedly, even those in the audience) can relate to the darker sides of the human psyche she initially exhibits.  Add to it that Closer is set in the capitol of “stiff upper lip” London, and the rawness and occasional vulgarity in Marber’s writing stands out all the more.

There, There Productions set up 4 rows of chairs (about 30 seats) on a stepped riser which angled towards the space so you could see the entire ‘apartment’ – Office/Studio and Bedroom/Bathroom from wherever you sat.  Interactions that honest taking place in as real a setting as I’ve ever seen for a play made the story that much more affecting.

The bedroom had a real bed, the washroom was functional (the assistant director, Zach, asked pre-show that we not use it during the performance, as it was the only washroom in the space), and many around us brought their own booze and drank throughout the production (making themselves right at home).

I respect the director’s choice to lose the British accents.  I would rather suspend my disbelief than be distracted by clumsy pronunciation.  What was odd, however, was choosing to keep British colloquial vernacular while speaking in Canadian English.  “Bollocks!” just sounds funny to me unaffected.  The use of a ROM visitor’s guide as a prop was also confusing.  Where was the action supposed to be taking place, after all?

Because the venue was so intimate and authentic, it was immediately evident to the audience when the actors were pretending.  Alice’s awkward puffs proved that she is not really a smoker, nor was Anna really depressing a shutter button as she took photographs in a later scene.  Despite these minor flaws, the jewel of Closer is in watching how the actors work with each other in many different situations, and while displaying such a range of emotion.

Little did I know, my companion was quite “Closer-savvy” and she compared There, There’s production to the myriad of others (both cinematic and staged) she had seen.  She agreed that there were discrepancies between what was shown and what was more likely intended – but on the whole, really appreciated the ensemble’s fluidity.  The actress who played Anna had the ability to lift and intensify every scene she shared, and her expressions and delivery were some of the finest I’ve ever seen.

I think with this solid first offering by There, There Productions, we can expect much more from 46 Noble St.  Cheers!

Closer by Patrick Marber (There, There Productions)

Opened Sep 22 and runs to Oct 2, Wed-Sat 8 pm. $15, stu $12. Unit 102 Theatre, 46 Noble, unit 102.