There's a scene in Patrick Marber's 1997 play Closer in which the two male characters — Dan, an obit writer, and Larry, a dermatologist — sit in locations on opposite sides of London, silently typing away on computer keyboards, while their pseudonymous words lurch and spill onto a screen above the two, in the real-time, abbreviated, grammatically wrecked vernacular of modern text-talk. It may be the first complete seduction scene ever created for the stage that occurs entirely in the virtual environment of an internet sex chat room. What makes the scene even more memorable is that one of the two men, Dan, is impersonating a woman.
Dan: "wait have 2 type with 1 hand am cumming right now... ohohohohohohohohohohohohohohohooh ohoooooooooooooooooooooooooooo
Larry: "was it good?"
Ah, modern love.
"It's not a play for your typical audience," says Kathy Lounge, laughing. Lounge is directing Closer for Piccolo's Stelle di Domani series, restaging the successful production she first produced for the College of Charleston's Center Stage last summer. "Generally, I've found that when my parents and older people have come to see it, they typically don't like it so much. College kids and younger adults, on the other hand, love it. So there's a gap there. I don't know why. It's definitely edgy."
Closer certainly has its share of dirty language and unconventional sex. But it's also much more than gratuitous naughtiness — a visceral, heartbreaking and hilarious drama about modern relationships, love, and the lack thereof. In 1999 Marber's play was nominated for a Tony Award for Best Play (it won the British equivalent, the Olivier, in 1998), and it's been produced in more than 100 cities in over 30 different languages around the world. It was renowned director Mike Nichols' 2004 film adaptation, with Julia Roberts, Natalie Portman, Jude Law, and Clive Owen, that first grabbed Lounge.
"My interest in it was actually sparked by the movie," she says, "but that's largely because I could tell what a wonderful play it must make. Like all films, the movie version is about the director, but the play is more about the writer. It's a million times more striking when it's performed live and in front of you."
The play concerns four lonesome Londoners, two men and two women. None of the four are model lovers, husbands, or wives. In fact, it may be fair to say they're all much more adept at leaving than loving. The hugs here hurt.
"Marber's writing is very honest to the vindictive nature of relationships and heartbreak, and I really like his characters," Lounge says. "I've seen it a million times and it hasn't gotten old. That's a testament to the strength of his writing."
Lounge's Piccolo production features the same actors who appeared in the first production, and it's presented in the round in the Simons Center's Theatre 220.
"That was one of the biggest challenges," she says, "starting from scratch. I wanted to do it in the round, and there are no blueprints or anything for that with this play, so we had to do all the planning and construction ourselves."
As director, Lounge is a behind-the-scenes operator in the production. But Closer is her second Piccolo play in two years that's flirted with adult and contemporary themes. Last year's Stelle di Domani production Trust, in which she appeared, was a modern sex-drugs-and-rock 'n' roll story that was heavily billed with a warning (some might call it savvy marketing) that the show contained nudity.
"I like pushing the envelope, doing things that are a little shocking," she smiles. "Everyone ought to be willing to be a little bit shocked."—Patrick Sharbaugh
Closer • Picccolo Spoleto's Stelle di Domani • $15, $12 seniors/students • (2 hours) • May 25, 26, 27, 29, 30, 31, June 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 7, 8, 9 at 7:30 p.m. • Theatre 220, Simons Center for the Arts, 54 St. Philip St. • 554-6060