Though Patrick Marber’s Closer first premiered in 1997—which is actually hard to believe was a full 26 years ago—there is still much that is compelling and even shocking about this dark, sadistic twist on a classic rom-com set up that you can catch for one more weekend at the Lake Worth Playhouse. A meet-cute car accident connects an obituary writer aspiring to become a novelist (Dan) and a sensual waif with a mysterious past (Alice) and the two soon strike up a romance. Her past becomes the inspiration for the book he goes on to write, but when sparks fly between him and the photographer tasked with taking his picture for the jacket, Anna, he can’t resist the temptation. Despite the fact that Dan then accidentally orchestrates a relationship between Anna and Larry, the doctor who tended to Alice after her car accident, the two sneakily continue an affair until all four participants in this mad game of relational do-si-do are inextricably intertwined.
As someone whose mind tends to wander, this is the rare play I found fully absorbing almost from the start, thanks to a scintillating, scorching, and generally quite fascinating collection of characters and circumstances.
Above-par dialogue is filled with a plethora of imminently quotable lines, and the extent to which the play was infused with sexuality, an atmosphere Director Trish Weaver Rhodes does an admirable job of creating, also made it an unusually interesting watch. After all, suspense is sexy, and sexiness is suspenseful; bodies themselves are powder kegs, with passion often destined to explode.
In a sense, the central theme of the play may be the very fickleness of said passion, the ego and illusion that first fuel and later often destroy it. Or, as Alice, the character who perhaps most embodies these themes, puts it, talking of men as a whole:
“They love the way we make them feel but not us. They love dreams.”
“So do we,” the shrewder Anna responds.
One could even take away from this play the idea that passion is in fact opposed to love, at least the more mature grown up kind that is not so easily pried apart by the games these often cruel—yet never entirely unsympathetic— characters play with one another.
And though some of the coincidences that fuel the characters soap opera-like rendezvous come across as the slightest bit contrived, what is more believable is the desperation that drives them, these kind of people who think, who move more like animals—which is maybe the kind of person that most of us are merely pretending not to be.
Megan Deford is quite effective as the relatively down to earth Anna, and Russell Kerr gives probably the most impressive performance of the bunch as Larry, an affable and caring doctor who also, as he memorably puts it, has a brutish, caveman-like side, is as much an animal as the rest.
While Ireland Brianna as Alice falters a little in some of her character’s more genuine moments of emotion, she excels at creating her alluring persona, most notably during a scene in which she perfectly embodies Alice’s cheeky stripper alter ego.