Closer doesn't always ring true

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      By Patrick Marber. Directed by Adam Janusz. A Shift Theatre production at the VanCity Culture Lab at the Cultch on Friday, November 9. Continues until November 17

      Here are four people you don’t want to get closer to.

      Patrick Marber’s 1997 play Closer(Mike Nichols directed the film version in 2004) revolves around the convoluted relationships between two men and two women in present-day London. Dan, a buttoned-down obituary writer, meets the eccentric Alice when he takes her to the emergency room after seeing her get hit by a cab. A year later, the two are shacked up when Dan meets Anna, a photographer. She rebuffs his advances, so he sets her up with a stranger by impersonating her online. The stranger, Larry, turns out to be the doctor who treated Alice in the ER. For the next several years, the four bounce in and out of each other's lives in various romantic (or, more accurately, carnal) combinations.

      Marber deliberately disorients by jumping around in time, but he drives home his themes—desire is selfish, true love is elusive, we never really know the people we supposedly love—with the subtlety of a sledgehammer: keywords like truth, coward, and need are repeated often. As I watched these less-than-likable characters toss each other’s hearts around, compulsively repeating the same bad behaviours, then reminisce together about scenes I’d already watched, I wanted to pick them up and bash their heads together.

      The emerging artists in Shift Theatre, a new company, are clearly passionate about this play, and that passion both enhances and detracts from this interpretation. Director Adam Janusz fetishizes Marber’s text, opening with a too-long voice-over of key lines and covering scene changes with projections of excerpts from the script, but his pacing doesn’t do it justice. Marber’s dialogue is pithy, loaded with tart rejoinders: “Please don’t hate me.” “Easier than loving you.” It’s meant to clip along, but the actors’ delivery is often reverently slow, compounding the tedium.

      The acting is a mixed bag. Alexis Kellum-Creer is a natural and understated Anna, and Lara Rova plays Alice with a seductive combination of confidence and vulnerability. Christian Sloan doesn’t make Larry’s volatile combination of arrogance and insecurity emotionally convincing, though, and Troy Cherkowski is simply miscast in the pivotal role of Dan. Cherkowski has an amiable, goofy sort of charm, but he’s not credible as a self-centred, conveniently clueless exploiter, so his Dan doesn’t ring true.

      Janusz’s staging offers some pleasures—at one point, both couples break up in overlapping scenes, with one set of furniture seamlessly functioning as both locations—but too often, the pace lags due to unwieldy scene changes.

      I applaud these young artists for their ambition; I just wish they’d picked a more interesting script—or taken a more rigorous approach to this one.


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      Nov 13, 2012 at 11:45pm

      Natalie Portman+Julia Roberts+Jude Law+Clive Owen= Movie version FTW!

      Leah S

      Nov 14, 2012 at 1:00am

      I saw this performance on Saturday night and truly enjoyed the whole experience. I have never seen the movie and didn't really know what to expect, but watching these 4 actors pour their hearts out really moved me. Christian Sloan and Alexis Kellum-Creer had so much believable emotion and chemistry, I could really tell how much talent and time goes into their craft. Troy Cherkowski made a very charming Dan and I felt that Lara Rova was the least prepared of the bunch. She bumbled her way through a lot of her lines and tried to make scenes pass with her awkward stares off into the distance. I love what Adam Janusz did with this production and can't wait to see what he does next! I highly recommend that everyone take time and go see this!

      Why do people compare...

      Nov 14, 2012 at 9:04am

      Movies to theatre productions? They are two completely different things. I saw this play last night and loved Adam's take on it. The 4 actors were so talented and showed real raw emotions. The 2 men in the play gave me goosebumps with their talent and vulnerability. I say dont't watch the movie, support local talent and go see this play.

      I hope,

      Nov 14, 2012 at 8:43pm

      That these talented young actors in this productions don't take Kathleen Oliver's review to heart. She seems to be quite unhappy with life and also seems to dislike most productions that she reviews. Like the comment above, don't compare theatre to movies. Quit often they are not meant to be the same, and should we watched with an open mind.

      Sara V

      Nov 15, 2012 at 11:09am

      Man the directing sucked in this. You could smell the inexperience in his choices. I pitied the cast. I agree about the guy who played Dan though, his performance and the direction were real stinkers.

      Colette Nichol

      Nov 16, 2012 at 1:45am

      Kathleen Oliver's review of this flawed semi-professional production is extremely fair. Especially considering that the ticket price of $25 would make one think one was going to a show of professional calibre. I would have been happy to pay $10 for what is clearly a work in progress and a great chance for these actors to gain more experience, but $25 is quite cheeky indeed.

      The actors in this show clearly have the basic talent needed to be good actors, but they are unable to rise to the occasion of their characters and to the language of the play. They give no sense of the British class dynamics which are clearly written into the script, they drag the dialogue along as though it were a funeral dirge, and the relationships they forge with each other make little sense, which is partly because the actors are miscast (in terms of age in two cases and type in one case) and partly because they are underrehearsed. Lines are flubbed, movements are awkward, props seem to have been used few times, and so the naturalness necessary to bring this play to life is missing.

      Moreover, this comedy/drama about lust and love, requires some serious sexual sizzle between the actors in order for the audience to buy into any of the partner exchanging that goes down. Sadly this production is sizzle free and so the audience may be left wondering why any of these people ever bother having sex in the first place let alone talk about it so much.

      It seems to me that if these actors had been taken care of by a more adept director or even left entirely to their own devices they would have been able to pull off this show to a greater degree. There were certainly moments of vulnerability, openness and passion. But judging by the uninspired staging, geriatric pacing, and overall lack of attention to detail, the director of this show needs more practice and perhaps also more discipline. It might also be wise for him to achieve a somewhat higher level of mastery in the art of direction before he starts charging $25 for a ticket to one of his shows.


      Nov 22, 2012 at 12:48pm

      Colette Nichol: do you really think $25 entitles you to see a "professional" stage production? I think not. For $25 I expect the actors not to flub their lines, but that's about it. At $25 per ticket, no professional theatre in the country would be able to produce work without handouts from the Government. If you want to see quality Theatre, try spending a little bit more money as I have never in my life seen a show for $25 that I was not sorely dissappointed by. Even if a show is good and offers a $25 ticket price, the company (or government) would either be losing major dollars in order to present at that price, or else the actors would not be getting a living wage. The only result of $25 theatre tickets is semi-professional actors and broke theatre companies.

      For $25, your expectations are WAY too high. Good Theatre Starts at $30.00 minimum (for a back row seat at a sunday matinee) and if you want to actually be entertained you can expect to pay $50 or more. Otherwise you might as well get used to being dissappointed by the shows you see; I know I am.

      Colette Nichol

      Nov 23, 2012 at 1:18pm

      DN:I have been going to the theatre since I was old enough to know that the theatre existed, have seen hundreds and hundreds of shows, and have spent as much as $100 to see shows in Vancouver. Therefore you cannot fault me for being cheap nor accuse me of being uninformed. Most of the best shows I have seen in the last few years (in Vancouver and Toronto) have all been under $30. And by best I of course mean, the shows that I have most enjoyed - as I can quite agree that art is for the most part subjective. These shows which have cost less than $30 have been brilliantly acted original works or mountings of lauded plays by very small independent companies or solo artists. So perhaps we just have different tastes, or I just have fantastic luck when it comes to going to the right shows.

      That being said, I absolutely understand your point about the economics of theatre, and I would say that most of the brilliant shows under $30 I have seen have been put on by professional actors and directors working outside Equity and not receiving payment for their work or companies working with government grants.

      Would I rather have all theatre companies making money? Yes, if they are all striving for excellence. Would I like all theatre companies to be able to sustain themselves without government grants? Naturally. Do I believe that is possible? Likely not in our lifetime. And certainly not if our theatre goers continue to be disillusioned by dicey productions that cost twice the price of a ticket to the movies. In competition with all the other forms of cheap yet high quality entertainment out there, how can we of the theatre charge $25 a ticket for something less than compelling and not expect to become more and more irrelevant to the society we are supposed to be serving?