16 February 2019

Closer Review by Andre Delicata for The Times of Malta


The truths we hold close are the lies that drive us apart

Up close and personal with Patrick Marber’s 1997 hit play

“Men and women view life and relationships through considerably different lenses. Nuances based on shifting power dynamics and widely varying expectations of love and sexual politics, have the tendency to create tension in the dealings between the sexes, often bringing out the worst in people.

The choice of Closer on Masquerade’s part was a wise one. Marber’s outstandingly intuitive and intimate play allows for clever production possibilities due to its contemporary setting and reliance on online chatting for a central scene.

Indeed, Romualdo Moretti’s set design was sleek and minimalist, with a highly polished, reflective floor and cuboids of various sizes functioning as seating and structured zones, which lit up and changed colour according to the mood required of the scene.

A screen acted as a stark backdrop for the projections the play needed and this set-up firmly placed the focus on the cast of four.

Director Anthony Bezzina’s casting choices were cogent and fitting. When Dan (Jean-Marc Cafà) first encounters Alice (Nadia Vella), the stage seems set for a straightforward love story, but the earnestness of these two young people, masks a twisted desire for power on both sides. His is one based on his confusion of lustful sexual attraction with love and finding the thrill of the chase intriguing, hers is a subtler power based on the need for anonymity and self-preservation.

Alice is the only one who does not admit to her lies, while Dan freely admits to his infidelity because he believes his latest love is his greatest story. Thus does he fall for the more sophisticated Anna (Alexandra Camilleri Warne), a photographer who is commissioned to capture his image for the sleeve of his new book, which he bases on Alice’s character.

Slowly, over the course of several years, the lives and relationships of the three characters intertwine, along with that of Larry (Mikhail Basmadjian), who is unwittingly drawn into the circle by Dan, following a sex-chat prank, which brings Larry and Anna together for the first time.

Basmadjian’s committed and confident Larry played off well against Cafà’s more arrogant Dan, in several scenes, it was evident that these men are flawed in ways which stem from their personal insecurities, flaws which are hidden behind their outwardly manly behaviour and which are overshadowed by Alice’s fear and vulnerability, which she too hides behind a hard, impenetrable shell of coyness and overt sexuality.

Vella portrayed Alice’s complex character extremely well in spite of the fact that as an actress she seems to be reverting to type: she executes the vulnerable but brazen victim very well. Cafà’s carefully studied Dan sways from nonchalance to passion in his commitments and his character’s persistent rationalising is a subconscious attempt at justifying his often unchivalrous behaviour.

Of the four characters, Anna, sensitively played by Camilleri Warne, is the most controlled in her emotional responses and the most honest. While the two men both value truth, it is a version of the truth which satisfies their particular needs and is consequently subjective.

Basmadjian’s forthright Larry is particularly plagued by this as it comes into conflict with his profession as a physician. Anna, on the other hand is more honest with herself and with others regarding her motivations and her maturity resonates with the audience.

It is clear that Closer is a play that deserves to be seen, not simply for its sharp script and its subsequent crisp delivery by a cast whose dynamic is finely balanced; but also for what it has to reveal about the vulnerabilities and flaws of human nature. Our dealings and sexual politics are manifested clearly in the tightly-knit scenario which Marber so beautifully weaves.”

Andre Delicata - Times of Malta

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