By Patrick Marber. Cast: Rebecca Palmore, Jarrett Dapier, Gary Ambler, Cynthia Pipkin-Doyle. Directed by Jarrett Dapier and Gary Ambler. Lighting Designer: Lucrecia Blanco. Sound Designer: Jarrett Dapier.
The Celebration Company.
Through February 10. The Station Theatre, 223 N. Broadway, Urbana. Box office: 384-4000.
The idea of emotionally cold, angry, punishing people who can’t seem to connect, who use sex (or the promise of it) as both currency and a weapon, is not a new one. “Dangerous Liaisons,” “Carnal Knowledge,” “The Ice Storm” -- and Patrick Marber’s “Closer,” on stage at Urbana’s Station Theatre, all focus on just that.
The only difference is that “Closer” tries hard to be very now and au courant, with a smutty Internet chat room added to the mix.
“Closer” focuses on four people -- a cheeky young stripper with a mysterious scar and a murky past, a quirky obituary writer, a lovely photographer with a penchant for strangers, and a dermatologist whose taste for cheap sex seems to stem from his working class background.
Alice, the stripper, meets Dan, the writer, when she is hit by a taxi and he takes her to the hospital. Later, they are each photographed by smoky, seductive Anna, who runs across Dr. Larry when Dan sets up a cyber-prank.
As the play progesses in a series of short, oblique scenes, Alice, Dan, Anna and Larry sniff each other out in various couplings and confrontations, slithering from flirtation to relationships, from some semblance of love to betrayal and back again.
Marber offers a purposefully unpleasant and twisted script, full of crude, ugly words and degradation. When one character says, “I’m disgusting,” there is no one on stage or in the audience likely to disagree.
Still, it does maintain a certain level of interest, if only because of the questions it poses. How did Alice get that scar? Who is she really? Who will end up with whom? Why are they always on the prowl? And why are they all so unhappy?
As directed by Jarrett Dapier and Gary Ambler for the Celebration Company, “Closer” weaves a dark and tangled web. Although scene changes move smoothly, the play still seems too long at two and a half hours, and the Pinteresque pauses come off as stilted and false. There is also a decided lack of British attitude in the production, as accents come and go and the upper vs. working class part of the plot falls by the wayside.
Among the cast, Rebecca Palmore creates the most intriguing character in Alice, the wounded tart who chooses to love a man because he cuts the crusts from his sandwich. Palmore projects a freshness and spirit that enliven her scenes.
Lucrecia Blanco’s lighting design is also effective, casting deep shadows and silhouettes on the spare stage, adding atmosphere and tension.