BWW Reviews: CLOSER is Further Away at Mobtown, And That’s A Good Thing

By: Feb. 22, 2010

The irony of British playwright Patrick Marber's play Closer is that no one stays close at all. Instead, the four characters start in solitude, intersect like ricocheting billiard balls, and propel each other back into nearly interstellar loneliness - and in one case into the grave. In a solid staging by Baltimore's Mobtown Players, most of the pathos and horror of this process, and much of the humor that makes it bearable, are well presented.

Two men and two women couple, trade partners and then trade again before utterly disintegrating. The sad and essentially solitary protagonists are Anna, a photographer (Bobbi Datz), Larry, a dermatologist (Timothy Dillon), Dan, a writer (Brian S. Kraszewski), and Alice, if that is really her name, a stripper (Melissa O'Brien, also known locally as Viola Van Wilde of the neo-burlesque troupe Gilded Lily). Not that we are to take them entirely literally as characters. They are types with only the sketchiest of backstories. They are there not to empathize with or to afford insights into the human condition, at least not beyond the lesson that humanity can be disgusting.

Instead, their mission is to yearn and rut. The women lie and the men fall into hopeless fits of jealousy, the centrifugal force that guarantees an unhappy ending for all, continually snatching defeat from the jaws of romantic and sexual victory. The play is more about the dance of destruction than it is about the dancers - well, the dance and the dialogue. Marber has drunk deep at the well of Harold Pinter, and has produced his own version of Pinteresque ping-pong: the rapid back-and-forth of dialogue that is curt, loaded, witty and sinister all at once.

This production profits by the youth of the ensemble, to all appearances considerably younger in aggregate years than the casts who presented Closer on Broadway, the West End, or in Mike Nichols' lifeless screen adaptation. The characters' inarticulate lust, stunned confusion and sickening surrenders to jealousy all seem somehow more striking with a youthful cast. The corresponding disadvantage is in the rendering of the dialogue, especially when it is at its most Pinteresque. At such moments, a firm command of British accent and a mature ear become most desirable, and these youngsters cannot always muster that. But they do pretty well. Director Erin Riley keeps her charges on course, on message, and mostly on tempo throughout the evening, and dialect coach Kerry Brady restrains most of the eruptions of Bawlamerese.

From the above remarks, Closer might seem like a case of what Beatle George Harrison described as "maybe together we can have a bad time." But the bad time is only had by the characters. The audience will enjoy alternately wincing and laughing at the folly on display, and perhaps even (oh, horrors!) identifying with moments of it.


Closer continues weekends through March 13. Mobtown Theatre, 3600 Clipper Mill Road, Ste. 114, Baltimore, MD  21211.  General Admission $15, Students and Seniors $12. Contains violence, nudity, profanity, and adult situations.

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