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Despite solid acting, Atlas Theatre’s ‘Closer’ fails to break our heart

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Atlas Theatre’s Closer has … great lighting.
Jacob Coakley

The Details

Closer
Two stars
September 6, 10, 13, 14 & 15, 8 p.m.; September 9, 4 p.m.; $15.
The Box Office, 1129 Casino Center Blvd., atlastheatre.org

Closer, by Patrick Marber, wants to be both arch and deeply emotional; to be the one who breaks it off and to writhe orgasmically in the sweet pain of being left. Unfortunately, in Atlas Theatre’s production at the Box Office it doesn’t hurt so good. It doesn’t hurt at all.

The play revolves around four interconnected characters: Alice (played by Jessica Afton), Dan (Ryan Remark), Larry (Alex Olson) and Anne (Breon Jenay), and the hookups, breakups, heartbreaks and right hooks of their incestuous love lives over the course of four years. But for a play supposedly about heartbreak and sex, the production conveys very little sexual energy. An early scene between Dan and Anne that needed to crackle with sexual tension had as much electricity as the Gulf Coast after Hurricane Isaac. When Larry flails for a connection with Alice—while Alice performs in a strip club—his desperation and rage are trumped by a sense of ennui. It feels like everyone is playing the disconnection between the characters, as opposed to playing the immediate actions and having the disconnection emerge as a result. Which means that in the final denouement, as the threads of revenge weave closer and relationships unravel, nothing seemed necessary or tragic—just convoluted.

But like any relationship, it’s not all bad. Director Chris Mayse finds good moments in the play’s overlapping scenes. One gargantuan breakup sequence at the end of the first act is lit up by the longing Remark and Jenay convey as they struggle with their significant others and gaze across the stage at each other. Eric Chiu’s lighting design hit the right tones and highlights, and his video design pulled focus in to keep the audience grounded when it needed to be yet disoriented enough to echo the mental state of the characters. Babin O’Dell and Jessica Afton’s flexible set handled the myriad locations well, and Anne-Marie Somers’ costumes revealed character and skin when necessary.

The agony of a broken heart is universal, but this production of Closer didn’t cut deep enough to touch mine.

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