CLOSER Takes You Outside Your Comfort Zone at the .ZACK Theatre

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Closer runs Jan 12-22, 2017 at the .ZACK Theatre.

CLOSER is a play by Patrick Marber that was made into a feature film in 2004 starring Julie Roberts, Natalie Portman, Jude Law and Clive Owen. I’m a fan of all four of those actors, and I own the DVD, but I somehow have yet to actually watch it. Thus when I arrived at the lovely .ZZCK Theatre for Theatre Lab’s production of the play, directed by Tom Martin, Produced by Ryan Scott Foizey and co-produced by Rey Arceno, Scott Seibert and Colin Barlow, I actually wasn’t sure what to expect. It was about three or four scenes into the performance where it dawned on me that I knew the plot from trailers I saw thirteen years ago. Better late to a party than never, right?

The cast is excellent. The show starts with Alice (Larissa White) and Dan (stage newcomer Brock Russell) are waiting to see a doctor about a nasty gash in Alice’s leg. Larry, (Andrew Michael Neiman) eventually sees to her injury. Time jumps ahead to find Dan and Alice in a relationship that is not, perhaps, entirely healthy. Dan’s written a book about his companion’s tumultuous young life and Anna (captivating Gabrielle Greer) takes publicity photos for him. Sparks fly between them briefly before Anna shuns his advances. Dan likes to pretend to be a woman in cybersex chat rooms and as faceless internet person “Anna” arranges to meet perpetually horny Dr. Larry for an adult rendezvous, but didn’t count on the real Anna being at the meet he was never going to in the first place. Strangely enough, Larry and Anna hit it off. Eventually, however, Dan and Anna’s mutual attraction ruins each of their relationships, and Alice and Larry end up as each other’s consolation prize.

 The play seems relatively innocent enough at first but the cybersex chat room scene launches the entire plot down a slippery slope of vulgar language and frank descriptions of sex, so if you’re a bit on the prudish side this production probably isn’t for you. If you’re like me and that sort of talk doesn’t bother you, CLOSER offers a lot to like. The actors each manage to maintain a British accent fairly well, with Larissa White’s cockney being more pronounced throughout. She has really come into her own as an actress, and the fearlessness she showed in New Line Theatre’s recent CELEBRATION continues here. Gabrielle Greer is more subdued but no less impressive as seemingly level-headed one who can’t help falling in love with an attached man. Brock Russell’s Dan is the hardest character to like because he’s so deeply flawed but doesn’t seem to truly acknowledge his own shortcomings, whereas Andre Neiman’s Larry seems to fully embrace his flaws, declaring himself at one point to be a caveman, accepting his primal urges as simply his nature. Throughout the show I kept thinking that Andrew reminded me of somebody, and it finally dawned on me halfway home: he put me in mind of Robert Carlyle (aka Mr. Gold/Rumpelstiltskin on ABC’s ONCE UPON A TIME), which I hope he’ll take as high praise.

The set is simply a series of easily swapped out props and a rather old-fashioned photo projector that allowed for a variety of backdrops that blended remarkably well with the modern setting, so kudos to scenic and lighting designer Mark Wilson for that. Marcy Wiegert’s costume designs were spot on, especially Alice’s stripper gear…not that I’m any authority on the subject...I’ve already said too much, haven’t I?

CLOSER hit the stage at the .ZACK Theatre on January 12, the day before the ill-fated prediction of St. Louis being plunged back into the Ice Age, and runs through January 22, 2017, so this weekend is your last chance to see this mature audience production. You owe yourself a night out after spending last weekend making French Toast out of the eggs, milk and bread you probably didn’t really need anyway, so make plans to visit the .ZACK Theatre is at 3224 Locust Ave. in downtown St. Louis this weekend to see CLOSER before it closes!

5.0 / 5.0