Closer, the second play of the King Theatrical Society’s (KTS) season debuted in the Pit on Nov. 16. The play was originally written by Patrick Marber and first premiered in 1997. The play divulges in only two acts the inner love affairs of two men and two women living in London and explores the modern definition of love and the relationship between truth and sexual desire.
The KTS’ rendition of the play was directed by John Sandham. The simple setting and utilization of a 360-degree stage, as well as a sparse need of props, created a deep intimacy as the characters explored their inner desires and committed their deepest betrayals. However, the tackling of such a major piece of work that is meant to be emotional, shocking and angering proved unfulfilling as most of the major motifs and lessons were dwindled by immature stage presence and discomfort in the actors’ own performances of their chracters.
In the play, obituary writer Dan (John Gilchrist) meets a young girl named Alice (Ebi Helmke) after she gets hit by a car. He takes up a relationship with her but soon after falls in love with a photographer, Anna (Genny Dow), who at first rejects him and marries a dermatologist instead named Larry (Thomas Jestin). The four continuously attempt to build meaningful relationships with each other that continuously (and ultimately) lead to betrayal and heartbreak. Marber’s original play did not lack depth of meaning by showing that with intimacy comes possible betrayal and yet limitless pursuit.
Performances by Genny Dow (Anna) and Thomas Jestin (Larry) were life-saving rafts on this long journey of discovery. With long dialogues, arguments, passionate moments and snippy jokes, these two actors handled their roles with an exceptional talent and skill especially in the face of such demanding roles. Jestin portrays his put-together character and yet transitions seamlessly into a raging, jealous man with ease. With such a small cast, however, it was not enough to save the entire play. John Gilchrist’s performance was flat and uninspiring, giving every altercation or interaction he had a limited two-dimensional definition. His performance took away from the depth of his character and ultimately his relations with the other three characters. Ebi Helmke, who plays the youngest of the four characters (Alice), seemed overly uncertain in her role and her character’s theatrical potential was overall overlooked by the production.
The play was a reproduction if nothing more. Marber’s play was copied but its message was not used to its full advantage. None-the-less the content of the play is as relevant today as it was when Marber first wrote it almost 20 years ago. As men and women try to connect but find themselves disconnected and as love demands and is constantly in demand, these four characters show the raging fight to love and be loved and the sexual desire that inevitably comes with getting “closer”.
Closer will be playing in the Pit every night at 8pm until Nov. 19.