Closer | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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Closer, GroundUp Theatre, at the Duncan YMCA Chernin Center for the Arts. Telling the truth is the ultimate manipulative device: people supposedly want to hear the truth, yet it's often brutal and stultifying. Truth is power, and power is absolutely central to Closer, a taut investigation of attraction among four young British professionals. Patrick Marber's unabashedly pornographic play is designed to make you identify with all the fucking, cheating, and backstabbing--and to make you feel both ashamed and exhilarated for doing so. But this sensational work has been rendered fit for mass consumption by the likes of Jerry Springer: all that separates it from most of the smut we're exposed to on a daily basis is a more artful approach.

Marber does a smashing job of cutting to the essence of desire, and GroundUp Theatre has responded with a production as lean and hungry as the script. Matthew Haddock's set design--two large wooden frames that fold in or out to open and close the space--adds to the production's intimacy, and Molly J. Neylan's elemental lighting gracefully shifts the emotional tone using not many more than a dozen lights. Director Sabrina Lloyd and her cast are fearless in their approach--they've taken apparently self-possessed characters and shaped them into fragile creatures. It's a move that runs counter to the play's logic, but Marber's impassive script feels more authentic for their efforts.

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