There’s a fine line between…..




Written by Patrick Marber

Directed by Kymm Zuckert

Ruminator Productions

American Theatre of Actors

314 West 54th Street

Equity showcase (May 31-June 3, 2007)

Reviewed by Judd Hollander


Hate and love. Two sides of the same coin and, quite often, just a heartbeat apart from one another. This is shown quite clearly in Ruminator Productions’ absolutely stellar presentation of Patrick Marber's Closer. Perfectly cast, strongly directed and brilliantly played, the show delivers on all counts; and also stands head and shoulders above the 1999 Broadway production.


Talking place in London over a several year period in the 1980s, the play looks at four very different and ultimately unfulfilled people. There's Dan (Chris Gilmer), an aspiring novelist and a newspaper obituary writer; Larry (John Borras*), a dermatologist; Anna (Rachel Lande), a professional photographer; and Alice (Maria Psomas), a rather sexual woman with a somewhat mysterious past. (She's also in her late teens when the story starts, at least 10 years younger than the rest of the characters.)


The story begins one night when Alice is hit by a truck. Dan, who happens to be passing by, takes her to an emergency room where Larry is on duty. Dan and Alice soon begin a relationship despite the fact that Dan was already involved with someone when he met her. In addition, Dan’s need to play with other people's lives ultimately proves his undoing as he orchestrates a rather mean trick on Larry and ultimately sets the stage for him to meet Alice, who eventually ends up loving and hurting both men.


While each of the four desperately wants nothing more than to be in a lasting (and possibly "perfect") relationship, none of them are willing to take the steps necessary to ensure that it happens. Dan, the most proactive of the group (i.e. the one who more often then not sets things in motion he can't control), always seems to be looking for the next best thing, so much so that when he finally finds a love he truly wants (Anna), he may be unable to keep it. Larry initially comes off as a sort of mild-mannered and awkward fellow, but actually has a sadistic streak inside him, with a need to destroy what he can't keep. Anna suffers from a strong lack of self-worth, coupled with a huge amount of guilt and remorse for her past deeds; and turns herself in a martyr so she, in her eyes only, can attempt to atone for her actions. As for Alice, she has such a deep need for a father figure in her life; she has a perpetual air of desperation around her, never allowing the woman she could be to emerge.


All of this emotional baggage comes through, thanks to a brilliant cast, bringing to life these conflicted characters without a false note in the bunch. As a result, watching the play becomes a quite visceral experience, with the audience drawn right into the action. This is most evident in any scene with Psomas, who powerfully brings to life Alice's child-like need for love. We feel her desperation, clinginess and heartbreaking attempts to find and keep it. Her final scene with Larry (at that point on the own end of his emotion rope), which take place in a private room in a strip club, is devastating.


Borras is the biggest surprise of the group, taking a character which could, in the wrong hands, easily be a doormat or punching bag, and nicely bringing to life Larry's inner demons and need to come out on top now matter who he hurts.


Lande and Gilmer are both strong in their roles (they have the best sexual chemistry of the group) and while one wishes that Dan and Anna would end up together, their own actions and inability to ultimate trust one another may lead to their undoing. At one point feels the need to scream to Anna not to make a wrong choice, knowing to do so could lead to tragedy.


Kymm Zuckert's direction is the other shining star here, never letting the play drag or veer off course, with not a word or scene wasted. It also helps that it was staged it in a very intimate venue, which forces the audience to be right there in the action; something Zuckert took full advantage of in the way she envisioned the work. Those who have seen the movie version of Closer will recognize the hand of Mike Nichols in Zuckert’s staging. Several lines (most notably when Psomas sighs “Like heaven!”) are delivered exactly as they were in the film, and Gilmer as Dan bears more than a passing resemblance and manner as Jude Law.


Most interesting of all is that none of these characters ever really apologize to each other for their actions. It's as if they're saying "this is who we are and you have to take us or leave us in this manner". Though there are often several months which pass between scenes during which times relationship can and do change. If there's a moral to the story, it's that life goes on and one has to live with the consequence of their actions and hopefully learn from them before it's too late. It would interesting to have a chance to revisit these people several years down the line, but since that probably won't happen, the best thing to do is to keep a close eye out for Ruminator Productions' next project. If it's anywhere near as good as this one, it's going to be well worth seeing.


* denotes member, Actor’s Equity

Box Score:

Writing: 2

Directing: 2

Acting: 2

Sets: 2

Costumes: 2

Lighting/Sound: 2

Copyright 2007 Judd Hollander

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