Closer at the Rose Wagner Performing Arts Center Studio Theater

Thursday night marked the opening of Process Theater’s in collaboration with Wasatch’s Theater Company’s production of Patrick Marber’s “Closer” in the Studio Theater at the Rose Wagner Performing Art’s Center.  I have attended performances on the Rose Wagner Main Stage but until Thursday had not had the opportunity to see one in the Studio Theater.  On this particular night there was an scarce amount of ushers at the Rose Wagner so I wandered past the main stage for a few minutes until I saw someone standing in a back hallway, this was the hallway leading to the Studio Theater.  So if you have not been to this particular venue before be sure to ask for directions at the Box Office as the staff will most likely not volunteer them without prompting.

Like most Studio style theaters seating is limited and all the seats are General Admission so arriving about 20 minutes before curtain is advisable.  Most people will be most familiar with this play from 1997 when it was adapted into a movie of the same name in 2004 starring Julia Roberts, Jude Law, Natalie Portman and Clive Owen.  This play tells the story of the lives of four people who have very close relationships with each other leading to more complicated lives.  This show has very strong language, subject matter and at times minimal clothing.  For this reason the production does have a warning that it is intended for mature audiences posted on its publicity and outside the theater.

The play has four characters Larry, a doctor played by Carleton Bluford; Dan an obituary writer played by Tyson Baker; Anna a photographer played by Latoya Rhodes and Alice a stripper played by Emilie Starr.  I found all four of these actors to be fantastic.  Each one of them understood their character really well and was able to deliver the serious and mature elements of the show in a very authentic and natural way.  My favorite scenes were the ones where two characters were arguing.  Too many times I have seen arguing and intense anger type emotions that are delivered in either a very underdone or very over the top way but that was not the case at this production.

Serious material needs to be balanced and there are lighter comedic moments in this show.  The scene that is most likely to get a reaction is an exchange between Larry and Dan, pretending to be Anna, in an internet chat room designed for people looking for random sexual partners.  I think both Bluford and Baker could have acted out a little more instead of letting the internet chat do most of the talking.  I think most of us can relate to having intense emotions while chatting online and given the nature of the conversation, I think this would have drawn the audience in even more.  Probably the best parts of a mostly serious play are the few rare times where comedy is introduced and most serious plays are not written well enough to get more than a snicker from a handful of audience members.  But this play has a good potential to leave the theater rolling a few times.  Marber does not hold anything back and there were moments where I thought “maybe I should look away and give them some privacy.”  But that was because they were comfortable with the material, handled it well and delivered it naturally.  It is difficult to pick out one or two stand out performers I think they were all excellent and well balanced and it is not often that you see a cast that everyone is on the same level.

This show uses a minimal but functional set designed by Grady McEvoy but space limitations of the theater do not allow for a large set for some elements such as looking at objects in the distance in that regard the Projection Graphics designed by Sam McGinnis aided well.  Also using the projection graphics for the internet chat scene was very well done.  I found the Lighting designed by Danny Dunn and the Sound designed by Nicole Finney to be flawless.  Producer Sam McGinnis and Director Tracy Callahan have put together a great production team and a great cast.  I enjoyed this show and would go and see it again.

Wasatch Theater Company’s production of “Closer” performs September 12 -21 Thursday’s, Friday’s and Saturday’s at 8:00 pm with a Matinee performance on Saturday September 21 at 2pm in The Studio Theater at the Rose Wagner Performing Art’s Center, 138 West 300 South, Salt Lake City. Some publicity shows the show runs until September 28, however there is an update posted on www.wasatchtheatre.org with adjusted dates. Tickets are $15 and available at www.arttix.org or by calling 801-355-2787.  Running time: Approx. 1 hour 30 minutes, 15 minute intermission.

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