Getting intimate

Closer explores relationships in a modern age

Patrick Marber’s Closer won the 1998 Laurence Olivier Award for Best New Play.
Patrick Marber’s Closer won the 1998 Laurence Olivier Award for Best New Play.

Sex, lies and video-feed — with the crusts cut off.

Queen’s Vagabond Theatre presents Closer, a show that cannot be put in a box. It’s confusingly honest yet poignantly deceptive.

Written by English comedian Patrick Marber, it tackles subjects of sex, relationships, power, greed, selfishness and the pursuit of satisfaction in the face of moral ambiguity. Held at the Baby Grand, with a four-person cast, the content is steamy enough to garner a “viewer discretion” warning. Queen’s student and director Matt McFetridge embraces the challenge of overseeing such a production.

“It’s small,” he said. “But at the same time it’s incredibly deep. It has layers upon layers that all of us keep unearthing.” The show revolves around four characters, portraying the ebbs and flows of their intertwined relationships. It doesn’t shy away from the importance of sex, something the cast respects.

“Other romantic leads, you have your partner who you’re in love with,” Ryan Armstrong said of his character Dan. “Whereas [in Closer,] all the characters are in love with all the other characters.

“Our social construct of monogamy is so engrained, but is it right?”

Jessica Mosher, who plays Anna, shares a different perspective.

“I think each character is so selfish and so in love with themselves that it makes it a huge challenge,” she said. “At the end of the day everyone is looking out for themselves.” With such varying perspectives from the cast members, one should expect to leave with many questions asked and few answered. The charm behind Closer is the lack of presumption, a nice break from the daily struggle to define appropriateness in the face of sex.

Closer tackles these issues head-on through various forms of communication. In one scene two characters have a sexual online encounter. The silence onstage contrasts with graphic phrases projected onto a screen. It makes an impact and today’s technology-obsessed generation can relate.

But projections are just one of many impressive set and design choices. Technical director Dilara Aksak and the production crew worked hard to make the small stage feel as expansive as possible.

“We worked our butts off,” Aksak said. “The set changes almost every scene, and not small changes, either. It’s a workout.” The workout pays off; impressive furniture and props allow audiences to focus energy on the show’s message, rather than on suspending their disbelief to create the atmosphere for themselves.

The acting is superb, making hard work and cast chemistry evident. The quartet of actors will keep spectators entertained on some level, be it from the shock factor or the commitment to their individual characters.

Going deeper, viewers should be prepared to question how they define morality and the social conventions of what constitutes purity, sluttiness, love and everything in between.

Closer runs until Saturday at the Baby Grand Theatre with showings today at 3 and 8 p.m. and Saturday at 2 and 8 p.m.

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