Saturday, February 19, 2011

Boldly And Lustfully "Closer"

After their very successful run of "The Full Monty" last year, local theatre production company Pangdemonium! decided to tread on the dark side with "Closer" as their "next act".

"Closer" is an intelligent, raw, explicitly adult play by award-winning English playwright, Patrick Marber.

Although, Red Dot Diva observed that "Closer" is actually quite a misnomer for the play, given that by the end of the tale, none of the characters were any more intimate with each other.

Most non-theatre geeks would have been more familiar with the 2004 movie adaptation which starred Jude Law, Natalie Portman, Julia Roberts and Clive Owens. But in Red Dot Diva's opinion, the story with its no holds barred and oft-lurid language, was more suitable for the stage.

It was unfortunate that Emma Yong had to withdraw from Pangdemonium!'s production due to health reasons. She has been replaced by the multi-faceted Tan Kheng Hua, whom Red Dot Diva also loves watching on stage. So all's good.

"Closer" examines the motivation of the human soul, and the sometimes cruel sexual politics people play in the name of love and lust. The script tells the story of the relationships between four characters - a young stripper Alice (Cynthia Lee MacQuarrie), a rather self-loathing unsuccessful writer Dan (Keagan Kang); Anna (Tan Kheng Hua), a deceivingly coy but beautiful photographer and the alpha male - dermatologist, Dr Larry (Adrian Pang).

Set mostly in London, the quartet - who started out as strangers - dance around each others' lives and become lovers and spouses, yet (deliberately?) weaving themselves into one another's romantic liaisons by having affairs and indulging in revengeful fits of jealousy.

With such a delicious premise, Red Dot Diva was looking forward to be at the opening night of "Closer" with her very open-minded Mom on 17th February.

She asked Adrian Pang what he thought of opening night and he summarized his feelings succinctly. "'Closer's' opening night was a bit like falling in love - thrilling, terrifying, and unforgettably romantic!" Adrian said.

During the play, Red Dot Diva twistedly noted that there were many moments where the words cut deep into one's soul - simply because one has "been there, done that" before. These were especially evident when Larry confronted and goaded Anna about her betrayal ("Why is the sex so important?!") and when Dan tried to get to the facts with the evasive Alice so that he could unleash some kind of deeper, more hurtful intentions.

The bawdy internet chat room scene between Dan and Larry was hilarious but hardly shocking in this day and age. More amusedly, Red Dot Diva noticed some folks squirming at the obscene chat jargon and the girl sitting behind her even feigned not to understand them (really?!... seriously?!?!!).

A more memorable scene was the one that involved a drunken Larry and a distantly polite Alice at a strip bar. Ranting to Alice while mourning for his loss of Anna, Larry was pathetic in his desperate attempt to connect through some form of sexual intimacy. A very typical male reaction that Red Dot Diva has seen many times in her lifetime.

The same scene was key in providing a twist involving Alice's name. A revelation that hints of how one is sometimes running from themselves more than anything or anyone in this world.

With a complex play like this, where the interactions flow relentlessly between the four characters, there is no doubt that its success hinges on strong performances from the key actors.

And the four on stage in Pangemonium!'s production do not disappoint.

Aussie actor Keagan Kang has returned to our Red Dot Island to take the role of charming but selfish Dan in "Closer". Good-looking Keagan was quite popular when he was here working at Caldecott Hill. Remember him from "Triple Nine".. or even... "Spin"??!

On the stage for "Closer", Keagan captured Dan's childish romanticism and insecurity really well. And with Keagan's innate twinkly-eyed charm, it was difficult to dislike Dan too much. Red Dot Diva is still not sure if this was a deliberate flaw or a saving grace.

Red Dot Diva is usually used to Tan Kheng Hua playing rather strong characters on stage. To see her act as the soft, almost always sighing Anna was refreshing. She made Anna seemed the most humane even while she chose to do awful things.

As the unknowable Alice, Cynthia Lee MacQuarrie lit up the stage especially in the scenes where Alice was mischievously flirty and bubbly. But Red Dot Diva wishes she came across more dangerous and edgy. After all Alice is the most tragic character of the bunch and lived on the streets with only one bag of actual belongings.

Rounding up the cast is Adrian Pang, who masterly depicted Larry with a cold manipulative streak and was the easiest to despise. Despite of that, Adrian managed to garner some sympathy from the audience for Larry. Red Dot Diva admits that it was emotionally tough to see Larry crumble when he realized he had lost Anna.

Director Tracie Pang put the pieces together in a very visually effective way with the nondescript and grey-hued moveable sets. There are 12 different scenes in "Closer", and even though the audience could see the stagehands moving the set pieces, Red Dot Diva did not feel that the transitions were too jarring.

There were times when two different scenes were carried out on stage simultaneously with the actors entering and exiting the stage at opportune junctures. It was a clever way of story-telling, and Red Dot Diva felt as if she was watching a split-screen TV episode, not un-similar to "24". The time shifts in the cafe scene between Anna, Larry and Dan were also deftly handled.

Particularly notable was the music used as links between the set changes. The one where sounds of bubbles were merged into the previous track to denote a scene-shift to the London Aquarium was brilliant.

Red Dot Diva jabs a cynical yet offensively erotic Red Dot on Pangdemonium!'s production of "Closer".

She warns that "Closer" does not offer any moral compass with respect to the characters' behaviour, and it is quite expected from the start that there will be no happy endings. It is a cold, cynical play that will make romantics thrash about in glittering, rose-scented agony.

However, this local production put a lot of soul to the ambiguous unlikeable characters and created an absorbing 90-minute showcase of the tragically-flawed human condition.

In all its dishonest ramblings on stage, the play is - ironically - truthful. And the things not said, spoke louder than words.

Personally, Red Dot Diva agrees with Patrick Marber that relationships are a minefield of lies. It is primarily one of the reasons why bluntly frank Red Dot Diva is resolutely single. When it comes to relationships, WYSIWYG doesn't often work. And through time, she has learnt that the more one is honest and self-assured with oneself, the more it tends to distance one with others.

Because.... people really do love lies, don't they? :)


The production run of "Closer" is from 17 February to 6 March 2011 at the DBS Art Centre (Rating R18).

So if one is up for some really *close* self-examination of the human heart, go buy the tickets from SISTIC now!


Special thanks to Pangdemonium! for a very enjoyable theatre night!

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