Chicago Theatre Review

Chicago Theatre Review

Sexual Cruelty on Naked Display in Spartan’s “Closer”

July 13, 2014 Reviews Comments Off on Sexual Cruelty on Naked Display in Spartan’s “Closer”

Spartan Theatre Company describes itself as “minimalist” theater, but its raging, stunning production of “Closer” at Den Theatre hardly qualifies as minimal.

With a brilliant cast of actors who practically expunge their humanity through the play’s two-and-a-half-hour running, director Patrick Belics, stage manager Andy Monson, and especially sound designer Tim Bickel craft an exemplary piece of theater, one that is always shifting and surprising the audience.

The plot of “Closer” is quite straightforward, involving four characters – Dan, a witty, albeit failed novelist; Larry, a kind-hearted doctor; Anna, a talented photographer; and Alice, a troubled ex-stripper – whose romantic lives do not so much intersect as collide violently, with all the seedy undercurrents bubbling to the surface in one way or another.

What impressed me the most about Spartan’s staging, though, was the humor they were able to bring out of such an anguished play; granted, much of the humor is in the text, but all one has to do is compare Spartan’s warm treatment of the material with the cold 2004 film version, which starred Clive Owen (who originated the role of Larry in the 1997 premiere in London), Natalie Portman, Jude Law, and Julia Roberts, to see just how deft and nuanced Belics’ treatment of the play truly is.

And in the end, it’s the acting that drives this production home, as Brianne Duncan Fiore, Poppy Golland, Brian Grey, and Matt Pratt create instantly memorable characters. It’s quite easy, amongst a spectacularly staged production, for lackluster acting to disappear into the sets, but again, Spartan is a minimalist company, so aside from the occasional chair, table, couch, and lamp, all we’re left with to ride us through the production are the unique talents of Fiore, Golland, Grey, and Pratt – a challenge they prove themselves all too willing to devour.

Highly Recommended

 Reviewed by Peter Thomas Ricci

Presented July 11 – July 27 at Den Theatre, 1333 N Milwaukee Ave, Chicago, IL 60622

Tickets are available by calling (636)-373-0586 or by visiting

Additional information about this and other spectacular area productions is available at the one, the only, the indefatigable

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