IS Productions' Inaugural Staging of Patrick Marber's CLOSER, or Four Brits Behaving Badly

Britt Brown, Ross Canales, Jeremy James Carmichael and Angela Gimlin Offer a Lesson in Onstage Chemistry and Its Importance

By: Feb. 21, 2024
IS Productions' Inaugural Staging of Patrick Marber's CLOSER, or Four Brits Behaving Badly
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Just wondering: Do people still engage in cybersex, or has it – like electronic pagers, AOL and video rental stores – gone the way of the dodo? I ask because cybersex provides a salient plot point in Patrick Marber’s 1997 play Closer, which currently is the inaugural production from Nashville’s IS Productions, the more serious, yet less drunken theater producing arm of Inebriated Shakespeare, the entity that’s been serving up the Bard along with a cocktail or two, for the past few years in various Music City (and now in San Antonio) locales.

IS Productions' Inaugural Staging of Patrick Marber's CLOSER, or Four Brits Behaving Badly
Ross Canales, Jeremy James Carmichael,
Britt Brown and Angela Gimlin

Directed by Kurt Jarvis and starring four talented and attractive Nashville actors – two beloved veterans of this region’s stages (Britt Brown and Angela Gimlin) and two relative newcomers (Ross Canales and Jeremy James Carmichael) – IS Productions’ Closer has been updated somewhat and is set in the “now” times of 2024, rather than with the play’s original late 1990s milieu that somehow seems better suited to cybersex, which seems weirdly dated to me, what with Tinder, Grindr and other gateway apps to one-night-stands, STIs and pure, romantic love. To be certain, it’s a minor quibble and the show now onstage at Third Coast Comedy Club’s The Annex in Marathon Village is as engaging and as intriguing as ever, thanks to the winning performances of Jarvis’ talented quartet of actors.

The intimate space serves well for Marber’s script, although be forewarned that if you’re seated in the first row you will feel as if you are more directly involved in the onstage action – so you should dress the part. The four characters are all fashion conscious (though trying to pass off cotton poly as cashmere just won't do), lovely to look at and, quite frankly, have beautiful hair (Mr. Canales’ hair is perfectly cut and coiffed; I know because I was just inches away from his head in the show’s opening scene during the performance reviewed), one hideous wig notwithstanding. In fact, though I am really going to date myself here, they could all be featured in an advertising campaign for Breck Shampoo (do they still make Breck shampoo?) which, back in my childhood, featured the gorgeously styled and lushly locked heads of models on the back cover of varied and sundry magazines found in your mother’s hairdresser’s beauty shop or salon, depending on whether it was in a stand-alone building or in a converted carport of her home.

But I digress.

Closer is Marber’s sharply written play (delivered in a series of fast-paced vignettes) about the vagaries of modern romance in which four strangers meet, have sex, fall in and out of love and fuck up their lives while making every effort to lead well-meaning existences in contemporary London. In other words, they are four Brits behaving badly (if in an eminently watchable manner).

We first meet the “disarming” Alice (played by the luminous Ms. Brown, who makes a most welcome return to the stage after far too long an absence), a stripper, and the “reserved” Daniel (the aforementioned Mr. Canales), an obituary writer, in an A&E of a London hospital, after they “met cute” and await medical attention for her bloodied knee. Basically, it’s the same way that Ashley and Gordon meet in Colin from Accounts, absent the cute pooch on wheels.

IS Productions' Inaugural Staging of Patrick Marber's CLOSER, or Four Brits Behaving Badly Subsequently, Larry (a dermatologist played by Mr. Carmichael, whose accent is absolutely top-notch – well, actually, they all sport believable accents; kudos to dialect coach Jill Massie) stops by, gives Alice’s leg a cursory once-over and pronounces her certain to dance again, but offers no concrete medical advice, sending Alice and Daniel on their way.

A year (and one scene) later, we find Daniel in the midst of a photo shoot with Anna (played effectively by Ms. Gimlin), who struggles to keep the charming, and now far less reserved, writer – whose new book, based on stories from Alice about her career as a stripper, come to find out – at camera’s length. When Alice arrives and susses out the developing heat between Daniel and Anna, she ends up posing for a quick photo sitting with Anna, who assures her she is “not a thief” and has no intentions of pursuing any type of dalliance with Daniel.

And before you can sing even the intro to “London Calling” by The Clash (but half a year later in dramatic terms), Daniel and Larry are “doing it” online, which leads to the rather surprising, and somewhat spontaneous (but is it really?) meeting of Anna and Larry at the London Zoo’s Aquarium the following afternoon.

IS Productions' Inaugural Staging of Patrick Marber's CLOSER, or Four Brits Behaving Badly
Angela Gimlin and Jeremy James Carmichael

If these spontaneous meetings and impromptu assignations seem somewhat contrived as they occur, rest assured that everything dovetails nicely together to create an altogether believable and authentic microcosm of modern romance amid the helter-skelter day-to-day lives of four people who seem fated somehow to be together.

Marber’s richly drawn characters are brought vividly to life by Jarvis’ thoroughly committed quartet of actors whose onstage chemistry ensures the audience’s rapt attention, no matter how convoluted their connections initially may feel. By the end of the two hours spent in their company, the emotional impact of their actions will leave you wanting more.

Closer has but two more performances this Friday and Saturday nights, which promise to build upon the opening weekend’s sold-out crowds (so get your tickets now while they’re still available), offering a welcome harbinger of what’s to come from IS Productions in the future.

Closer. By Patrick Marber. Directed by Kurt Jarvis. Stage managed by Myah Jackson. Technical direction by Alexis LaVon. Presented by IS Productions. At The Annex, Third Coast Comedy Club, Nashville. Through February 24. For details, go to Running time: 2 hours (with one 15-minute intermission).

Pictured (at top): Ross Canales and Britt Brown