UR’s International Theatre Program likes to deal with the darker side of life ? plays often center around death, dysfunctional families, and the like.

The program’s most recent play, “Closer,” deals with the failed relationships between four people. While intense and depressing, the actors have mastered the art of pain and despair. “Closer” is not always an easy play to watch, but it is well worth the effort.

The play opens with the first meeting of Alice and Dan, played by juniors Kali Quinn and James Hykel. Dan was an aspiring novelist stuck writing obituaries for a local paper and Alice was a drifting stripper with a questionable past. Alice charmed Dan, and the two began a relationship. Dan uses Alice as a muse, and wrote a book based on her life.

Dan went to see Anna, a photographer played by junior Amanda Goff, to get a head shot for his book cover and was instantly attracted to her. Later, he unknowingly sets her up with Larry, a dermatologist played by junior Ilya Khabinsky.

These two couples switched partners amongst each other countless times, enduring breakups, make-ups and all the painful yelling and fighting that occured in between.

The play began with a plot found in traditional opera, but gave it a modern twist on its less than positive ending. “Closer” continued to mimic opera with it’s tragic ending, but made it fresh with a modern setting and characters.

The title of the play is “Closer,” but what came across most vividly was the distance between the characters in each relationship. All four characters were deceitful in their own ways, and while they demanded honesty from each other, they all continued to lie. As Quinn said when her character was working in a strip club, “Lying is the most fun a girl can have without taking her clothes off ? but it’s better when you do.”

All four actors were very impressive and drew on real emotion for many difficult scenes. Quinn displayed a quiet vulnerability behind Alice’s fast-talking faade, and Khabinsky gave Larry the abrupt, gruff attitude that was needed in the scenes where he two-timed other characters.

The play’s action occurred in short vignettes that were interspersed with a jazzy soundtrack. Occasionally, interactions between different couples happened at the same time on stage, with one conversation carried out in the foreground and one in the background.

The stage space was handled very effectively, using a minimum of props and scenery to keep the attention focused on the interaction between characters.

Special effects in this play were very limited, but what was used was a nice addition and change of pace from the otherwise sparse scenery.

In a scene where Larry is having cybersex with a person who he thinks is a woman but is actually Dan, their computer conversation is projected on a screen above them, allowing the audience an amusing glimpse at the differences between what the characters are actually doing, and what the Internet conversation implies they are doing.

Rain pours down a backdrop in the scene where Anna is stripping for Larry, adding to the air of melancholy.

“Closer” is a harsh play, with lots of yelling and cursing. There is no happy ending in sight for these characters.

Despite, or perhaps because of these difficulties, the cast does a great job portraying the emotions of four people trapped in a vicious cycle. This is a play that is definitely worth seeing.

DeSantis can be reached at kdesantis@campustimes.org.

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