Wednesday night at the Arts Barns PCL Studio I watched K.I.A. Productions’ show Closer, by Patrick Marber. It was directed by Keltie Brown Forsyth, and featured Andrew Forsyth, Ellie Heath, Kristi Hansen, and Ben McIvor. I recognized a couple of those names immediately (Forsyth and Brown Forsyth created and performed in 7 Ways to Die, a charming and dark masked piece at the 2012 Fringe) . I last saw Hansen in pool (no water) at U of A Studio Theatre, and Heath in Soul Collector. Ben McIvor was new to me.
The play was written in the UK a bit over 15 years ago. It was set in London of that time period, in several installments over a span of a few years. At the start, the four characters are all strangers to each other. Dan (McIvor) and Alice (Heath) meet when he takes care of her after a minor traffic accident, and Larry is a doctor who encounters Alice at the hospital that day. In the next scene, Anna is a photographer taking publicity photos of Dan for the cover of his first novel. It turned out that he was living with Alice and had used her as inspiration for the novel, but is now taken with Anna. Later scenes show Anna married to Larry, Dan living with Alice, Dan and Anna carrying on, Larry and Alice hooking up, etc. All of them seem unhappy, cynical, and mendacious – but the characters are also quite different from each other. The two women are particularly distinct characters. I didn’t feel like the viewer really got to understand the truth about any of them, because they weren’t that kind of people. One of them in particular was shown as layering lies and secrets on top of lies and secrets, but the other characters were not revealed either. The next day I got a glimpse of Die Fledermaus at a media/education dress rehearsal, and it struck me how the premise of spouses all cheating on each other felt so light-hearted and balanced in the opera, but in Closer it was all just discouraging and dark.
There were quite a few lines in Closer that made me giggle or guffaw, but the rest of the audience wasn’t always laughing with me. Maybe I laugh when I’m uncomfortable and trying to connect, or maybe I just have a dirty mind. My two favourite scenes were interactions between the same-sex pairings – a brief meeting in a park between Anna and Alice where they share complaints about men and about the specific men who have shared both their lives, and a hilarious mid-90s chatroom exchange between Larry, typing while on call in the hospital, and Dan, having a drink at home with his laptop while emulating a female persona on line.
There is one more performance, a Sunday matinee. Same-day tickets are at the door. Oh, and yes there is an intermission even though the program doesn’t say. Some of the audience opening night weren’t sure whether we were at intermission or at a particularly odd ending.