August 9, 2020

Theater Review: Bang and Blame

posted on: Thursday November 8, 2001

by Erin Keller

Play info:
Closer Directed by Eric Tucker
The Sandra Feinstein-Gamm Theatre

The spectrum is complete. In September, Trinity Repertory Theatre Company produced its Noises Off, which was pure fun for almost three hours. Recently, our Blackfriars put on A Flea in Her Ear, a bedroom farce. Then Trinity dipped into the serious with the Pulitzer prizewinning Dinner with Friends. Now it’s time to take a look at the stark. Sandra Feinstein-Gamm Theatre presents a piece littered with raw emotion, naked want, and very little hope in Patrick Marber’s Closer. Closer revolves around four people – a doctor with an inferiority complex, a girl as reckless as she is witty who is looking for stability, a photographer who doesn’t know what she wants, and a writer who wants it all. These four should not be in the same room at the same time, but, as fate would have it, they are all grasping at the same few straws of happiness in 1990’s London. And like its famous bridge, they all fall. Alice is a stripper who doesn’t look both ways for traffic before crossing a street. When she wakes up in a hospital waiting room after an inevitable accident, her rescuer ends up being Dan, an obituary writer and an insatiable flirt. Soon the two live together, but keep the stripping and flirting intact despite the relationship. But with Anna, a photographer with a Hamlet-like decision-making complex, Dan cannot stop flirting. So Dan cheats on Alice, and Anna cheats on Larry, her doctor husband. And then the two leave their respective partners. The betrayed and abandoned Larry and Alice use sex with each other to work through their revenge, pain and hurt. But soon all four learn that changing the rules, your partner, and even yourself, doesn’t bring you any closer to love. There are two reasons to see this show: the acting and the direction. The substantial, if not crushing, weight of this play rests on four pairs of shoulders. All four actors support the play with remarkable ease, although none like Johanna Beecher (Alice). With her wild, sexy outfits and her ridiculous wigs, it’s easy to figure out why she instantly commands all eyes during every scene in which she’s present. Alice is a balance of rough and sensitive, caustic and cute, independent and vulnerable. Beecher was totally convincing. When her character tells Dan (Eric Tucker) “men want a woman… who comes like a train, but with elegance,” she practices that which she preaches. Nigel Gore (Larry) and Eric Tucker (Dan) played men who were needy and greedy, respectively, when it came to love. Both always remained in character. Gore, in fact, was so in character that during one performance he impulsively hit a wall on the set and broke his hand, which explains the cast on a “surgeon.” The play contains very graphic sexual language, but the words come out of such strong emotion that they never seem gratuitous. The play illustrates that sometimes “taboo” words are not merely for shock value; sometimes they are the only words that will do. Eric Tucker also directed the work, with strong choices. It’s no secret that Sandra Feinstein-Gamm Theatre is a converted garage – it’s a very small space with cinder block walls. With a couple of chairs, an elaborate camera, and a white bedsheet, the space was many different settings over the time span of four-and-a-half years. During the dimmed scene changes, contemporary songs, such as REM’s “Bang and Blame” and “Crush with Eyeliner,” blared loudly. There was a very interesting Internet chat scene where the dialogue was printed on a sheet on a wall. Who knew there was such visual potential in such a space? The first act explodes and leaves you waiting for the second, which unfortunately, does not pack as strong a punch. There is too much unraveling after so tight an emotional tangle. However, the themes of love, betrayal, and loss resonate long after the play is over, and they leave us with more lessons learned than any comic fall down the stairs or mistaken identity in a whorehouse ever could. GRADE: B+

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