- By gentleguide
- On Sat 06 apr 2019
A compass will help find your path. But it has four principal directions, all different, all moving away. Now imagine 4 characters, each trying to find their path towards love, each searching for a way that will bring them to reach someone. Yet all are unsuccessful because the others are in a different direction than they know. Like those four points on the compass, people are eternally moving apart, and yet they’re trying, so desperately, to become Closer.
In the award-winning play Closer by author Patrick Marber, four strangers continually orbit each other’s lives, trying to figure out where they belong (and with whom), and yet never quite achieving happiness. It’s all about the journey, lust and longing, and the ways we poor humans search for connections to someone else, and then sometimes sabotage it when success is there for the taking. Open Door Rep is known for bringing challenging and thoughtful material to the area, and Closer is no exception.
“I love this show, because all the characters have deep wants and needs but are also so obviously flawed” says Emily Davis. “My character, Alice, is a young girl who fends for herself. She has no friends, no family, and she is ready to leave and start a new life at any moment. When asked what she wants, she replies with ‘To be loved’ and then calls it a ‘big want’. I think that is the heart of this play. Everyone wants to be loved but we usually don’t know how to do it. And we make mistakes and hurt others while trying to find our love and self worth. Life is messy and complicated and so is this show.”
Local favorite Megan Helmers portrays Anna in Closer. “It’s easy to say that these characters are all deeply flawed individuals, but in a lot of ways, they’re just regular humans trying to deal with the complexities of love and identity. During the course of the play, they are forced to bear out the choices they’ve made, both good and bad, in their relationships with one another. We see them alternately drawn toward and pushing away those they love and desire. They twist and tangle and hurt each other in uniquely terrible ways that only a lover can, but then they second-guess their choices and are drawn into one another’s arms again.”
The males in the cast are Josh Visnapuu (co-founder of Open Door Rep) and Charlie Reese (who is married to co-star Megan Helmers in real life). These four convey the complicated dance of characters in Closer, all under the supervision of director Marnie Strate.
“As a director, I have found this to be one of the easiest casts I have had the pleasure to work with! It is nice to work with a group whose work I have respected for a long time and trust that we are on the same page of what needs to be improved and where our successes lie. I think that Emily and I are the only two in the group who have not worked together in the past, so there is definitely a level of trust we all have in one another to take risks or try something new.”
All four of the cast have been heavily involved in the local theatre community, and it shows in the relationships, both personally amongst the actors and the characters they’ve developed. “We’ve all been through so many projects in roles both onstage and on production teams, so there is a high level of respect between us all” says Davis, who has directed for Kata Klysmic Productions and performed in A Chorus Line under the direction of Helmers. “In September the four of us got together to read the play out loud, just for fun. The moment we got done we said ‘Oh, okay, so now we have to do this’ and here we are.”
“We’re also quick on picking up from each other, so if one person tries something new in a scene, well, here we go. We spent a good amount of time having deep conversations about the characters and the show in the beginning of the process, and we hare still having fun finding new things to geek out about today.”
Helmers has been known as a director for the past few years, but she gets to get back into the spotlight with a dramatic character for the first time in far too long. “Marnie is a very collaborative director, which I’m sure is necessary with a cast full of directors, so the whole process has been an exciting and stimulating exchange of ideas. That having been said, the four of us are ultimately here to act, which means having trust in your director to guide and shape your performance towards the vision they have in mind. I’ve had a lot of fun dusting off my skills and (hopefully) shaping an interesting and engaging performance, but this time from the other side of the table.”
Open Door Rep presents their shows as a kind of “pop-up” theatre, which also means having unconventional or non-traditional space for their events. For Closer, that means utilizing Paige Peterson Photography (3P Studio) located in the Mainframe Studios building downtown. As director, Strate has to translate this space into a unique stage.
“Since one of the characters (Anna, played by Helmers) is a photographer, we thought that might be a good place to consider. Paige Peterson’s studio at Mainframe offered a lot for our needs - a little bit of off-stage space, plenty of furniture already there that we can use for multiple purposes, and a nice bank of windows to let some nighttime city light shine through. As good a fit as it is, Paige’s studio does present one significant staging challenge — a 3-foot diameter pillar in the middle of the room! This forced me to do some problem solving and get creative with how to stage the show. It will be a bit of a new experience for a lot of our audience.”
Helmers hints at what some of that new experience might be like. “The audience will sit on opposite sides of the room with two side-by-side performing spaces in the center, meaning we can play two scenes at once while remaining visible to the entire audience. It’s sort of like a fishbowl. For a play like Closer, much of the action and the dialogue is very intimate. Limiting the audience size and allowing them to get close to the action ensures those in attendance will have a deeper connection to the characters and, we hope, a more affecting experience.”
Closer is presented by Open Door Rep at Paige Peterson Photography inside Mainframe Studios, and opens Thursday April 11. Shows are Thursday through Saturday nights for two weeks. Seating is limited and tickets are ONLY available online at OpenDoorRep.com. (Tickets will NOT be available at the door!!) Also note that Closer deals with adult topics and has mature content.