When two strangers become entangled, love can be an arduous game. Closer is a play about the interactions between four people who experience the complexities and challenges that love and sex can create. After a series of chance encounters, their bleak and lonely adult lives are changed forever as they experience love, lust, jealousy, and ultimately, heartbreak.
The characters’ interactions are presented in a series of contrasting scenes. Rarely more than two characters are present on stage at once, putting immense focus on their intimate one-on-one relationships. These emotionally-charged exchanges take on a somber mood, showing well the difficulty and imperfection of love that is so central to the story. Indeed, the changing sexual interests of all the characters create a frightening picture of married life – full of deceit, adultery, and anger. As the four characters continue intermingling in a bizarre love quadrangle there seems to be little hope that it will end for the best.
Even the careers of the four characters project detachment and loneliness. Alice works as a performer in a strip club, Dan is an unsuccessful novelist working as an obituary writer, Larry is a dermatologist, and Anna is a photographer who specializes, she says, “in the portraits of strangers.”
All the characters begin as strangers and try to maintain this detachment during their first encounters. They exhibit feelings of indifference and remoteness, showing the isolation present in their own lives. Yet as they become romantically involved, the protection that detachment offers from pain and suffering is gone.
Central to the play’s message is its portrayal of human sexuality. The film noir motifs of moral ambiguity and sexual fixation establish the mood right away, and the play is riddled with sexual language and tension whenever interactions occur. Many of the characters seem to have perverted sexual tendencies. In an especially graphic scene, Dan pretends to be a libidinous young woman in an Internet chatroom, displaying not only his sexual confusion, but also boredom with his current relationship.
The play portrays a disheartening view of adult relationships and married life. It seems that these characters have become so detached from others that they are almost unable to truly love someone else. Despite the many agonizing interactions these characters have, one wonders if it they even have the ability to be truly hurt. The final tragedy of Closer is not that these characters cannot love each other, but rather that they are ultimately unable to love themselves.