Do you need more lies and deception in your life? The current production of “Closer” might just be the fix for you.

By Tom Valentine
For the News Tribune
Do you need more lies and deception  in your life? The current production of “Closer” might just be the fix for you.
The Cumberland Theatre will continue performances this weekend on Sept. 21-23, with tickets available by calling 301-759-4990 or online at www.cumberlandtheatre.com.
     If you haven’t been to The Cumberland Theatre this season, you have missed out on some excellent shows. Their menu of plays often includes some little known or seldom produced productions. It is a great mix of eclectic flavors ranging from the obscure to blockbuster musicals. Their last production of “Noises Off” was only the second time the show was  performed in this area in the past 25 years. Before their production of “Gypsy,” you would have to have been around in 1972 to catch it.  If you wanted to see “Mamma Mia” somewhere, you’d need to travel at least 50 miles (and probably be disappointed in the comparison). Their 2018 opener of “Fool For Love” was a show most people probably never heard of - and should be disappointed if they missed it.
     Their latest selection, “Closer,” by Patrick Marber, follows that grand tradition.
This powerful play has deceit, love, sorrow and lust  - with betrayal and sex thrown in as well. Centered around four characters and their on again off again relationships, we discover that truth isn’t always the truth - and  forgiveness and reconciliation might be difficult to obtain.
     Described as a “densely plotted, stinging look at modern love and betrayal,” the story follows a 4 1/2 year time period of seductions, affairs, disappointments, dishonesty, and duplicity. “Closer” opened to rave reviews in 1997, won the Olivier Award for Best New Play, received a Tony Nomination, and was adapted into a film starring Julia Roberts and Natalie Portman.
     Director Nicole Halmos pulls the raw emotions from the cast using lighting effects, background sound and music, with a sparse but functional stage set. The show straddles the fence between drama and comedy. The comedic moments are hilarious and the dramatic ones extraordinary.
       Rob McDermott is “a man from the suburbs” who write obituaries for the newspaper and cuts the crust off of his sandwiches. His desperate need for love, truth,  and acceptance leads to a very emotional scene in the doctor’s office to finally realize, ”Deception is brutal….”
     “A girl from the town” is played by Savannah Humbertson, with a cool demeanor and a mysterious scar. Her sexual energy as a night club stripper is often masked by her seemingly youthful innocence. However, we discover her character confession that, “Lying is the most fun a girl can have without taking her clothes off”.
     As the Doctor Larry, Nathaniel Kent’s character is described as “a man from the city.” His portrayal might be the most crass and coarse of all the characters. But he might also be the most needy, dependent,  and clingy. “Have you ever seen a human heart? It looks like a fist wrapped in blood….”
     Kimberli Rowley is “a woman from the country” but is the most citified artist and cultured character of the group. She is equal parts cold, confident, calculating and comedic. “I’ve been hit before,” she exclaims - by men and by life. Her scene with Humbertson has all of the emotional elements of angst, cattiness, hurt, and sympathy that two jilted lovers or “other women” can muster.
     Equally impressive was Rowley and Kent’s scene confessing her fling with McDermott. As the character Larry begs for details, she gives them to him in graphic and descriptive fervor. The intimate discussion leads to an intense and impassioned  conflict. Yes, “Love is a battlefield”…but in this case, more like World War Three.
      “Closer” is a perfect provocative play for these times. Everyday, we hear lies, deceit, and lack of truth from those around us -  and those who lead us. None of the four characters in the show  gain our sympathy or support. They deserve each other. And, unfortunately, instead of becoming “closer” in a relationship…..or as a couple….. or as a nation, we actually drift further apart.                                  
Please note that "Closer" contains strong language and adult situations.  It is not appropriate for younger audiences.