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TheatreLab Closer

By • May 6th, 2014 • Category: Reviews
Closer
TheatreLab: (Info) (Web)
RVA Event Space, Richmond, VA
Through May 10th
2:30 with intermission
$25/$20 Seniors/$15 Students (Plus Fees)
Reviewed May 4th, 2014

As I have said before, one of the many great things about theater in the Richmond area, is that there are such diverse offerings available to satisfy everyone’s taste. With that said, TheatreLab’s current production of Closer, just wasn’t close to suiting my tastes.

TheatreLab generally presents plays with a young, hip vibe. Closer is a very stylized play that is more like watching an art film live. Visually and aesthetically, the staging of the production is fabulous. Michael Jarrett’s lighting creates a foggy film-like quality with shadowy very directional shades of reds, pinks and yellows. McKenzie Sherwood’s costumes are overwhelmingly black and white to add to the dark dramatic atmosphere, with splashes of red added to more emotional scenes. Deejay Gray’s scenic design utilizes the RVA event space well, with much of the action right in the audience’s face in sets on the floor, and a variety of scenes rotated on the stage area itself.

However, it is the elaborateness of these multiple sets that in part drags the show down. In a play that relies heavily on stilted dialog in lieu of action; long set changes and slow, dark, repetitive music made the 2 1/2 hours seem much longer. Stagnant blocking and acting that tended to stay on one level added to the draggy feeling of the show. There is little emotional depth, which leaves little opportunity to feel or empathize with the characters.

Another problem is in the casting. While the cast is capable, many of the actors are just too young to play the parts in which they were cast. The plot itself is very basic; where three people in England living very dull, ordinary lives have drama added to their lives in the person of a young stripper, Alice (Theresa Mantiply). Dan (Thomas Cunningham) is an obituary writer, Larry (Evan Nasteff) a dermatologist and Anna (Liz Earnest) a portrait photographer. The play follows the four as they meet and then bounce back and forth between one another in purely sexual relationships. The themes are blatantly stated as life without risk is death and the best sex is anonymous.

Mantiply captures Alice’s flirty, coy seductress nature with a bit of bratty, self-absorbed likeability. Cunningham captures Dan’s duality as a bit of a nerd yet a bit of a perv. Nasteff comes across as more kind, na├»ve, sensitive and charming than diabolical as Larry (with his British accent he reminded me of Andrew Garfield on SNL this weekend — who knew he was British?) Earnest is the more prim and proper of the four, and captures Anna’s cold, stoic nature.

Director Chanelle Vigue’s blocking creates beautiful portraits and utilizes the large staging area well; but often gets bogged down in still-sitting talking heads.

Be warned there is strong sexual language and action as well as a great deal of cigarette smoking. For those who enjoy a dark, artistic study of the more sinister sides of human nature, Closer is the play to see.

Photo Gallery

Thomas Cunningham (Dan) and Evan Nasteff (Larry) with Liz Earnest (Anna) in background Theresa Mantiply (Alice) and Thomas Cunningham (Dan)
Thomas Cunningham (Dan) and Evan Nasteff (Larry) with Liz Earnest (Anna) in background
Theresa Mantiply (Alice) and Thomas Cunningham (Dan)
Thomas Cunningham (Dan), Theresa Mantiply (Alice) and Liz Earnest (Anna)
Thomas Cunningham (Dan), Theresa Mantiply (Alice) and Liz Earnest (Anna)

Photos provided by TheatreLab

Cast

  • Dan: Thomas Cunningham
  • Alice: Theresa Mantiply
  • Anna: Liz Earnest
  • Larry: Evan Nasteff

Crew

  • Director: Chanelle Vigue
  • Stage Manager/ Assistant Director: Chelsea Burke
  • Directing Intern: Joe Toscano
  • Props Design/ Assistant Stage Manager: Maggie Bavolack
  • Scenic Design: Deejay Gray
  • Lighting Design: Michael Jarrett
  • Assistant Lighting Design: Ashley Swiger
  • Costume Design: McKenzie Sherwood
  • Original Music and Sound Design: Greg Elingburg
  • Production Manager: Aaron Mowles
  • Run Crew: David Plotnick, Angie Judson, Emily Sargeant
  • Poster and Program Design: Deejay Gray
  • Promotional Photography: Lucy Dacus
  • Promotional Videography: Annie Colpitts

Disclaimer: TheatreLab provided two complimentary media tickets to ShowBizRadio for this review.

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is by day a Special Education teacher, teaching History, Science and drama to Middle and High School students in a private Day School in Stafford. He has degrees in Educational Media and Special Education. He is also a part time Radio News Anchor and occasional actor in the Richmond area. Bruce is a native of New Jersey and spent most of his "adult" life in Upstate New York, where he started and ran a national award winning youth theater and cable television program for over 10 years. He has lived in Virginia since 2002, and in Caroline County since 2005, where he is active in many community groups; including serving on the Board of Caroline's Promise.

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