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SHIFT Theatre’s Closer – interview

Shift theatre's Closer

The cast of SHIFT theatre’s Closer at the Vancouver East Cultural Centre Nov 8-17.

Interview with SHIFT Theatre’s Cast of Closer 

– by Elana Shepert

Anyone with a beating heart will enjoy this play.

Thats Adam Janusz, director of SHIFT Theatre’s Closer, which is playing this November at The Cultch.

Written by English playwright Partick Marber, Closer is the story of four people whose lives are drawn together through lust, and complicated by the politics of modern relationships. Under the weight of expectation, the characters attempt to reconcile their desires, and end up lying and cheating. The play questions the notion that truth,or even love, can bring people closer. It was also made into a popular 2004 film, starring Natalie Portman, Clive Owen, Julia Roberts, and Jude Law.

Known their for their annual 1-Act Festival, Closer was an ideal choice for SHIFTs first full-length play. The company aspires to portray stories that resonate with people on a personal level, and reveal the truth of human nature.The story tackles issues at the core of contemporary interpersonal relationships, and therefore has the potential to reach a wider audience than the 1-Act Festival. The cast includes Lara Rova, Troy Cherkowski, Alexis Kellum-Creer, and Christian Sloan.

We sat down with Janusz and Rova this past weekend, a few days before the November 8 opening, to discuss what their interpretation of the infamous Closer has to offer.

Elana Shepert: So tell me a little bit about SHIFT, and why it is unique as a theatre company.

Adam Janusz: It has a conventional structure. Nick [Sartore] is the Artistic Managing director , and my title is artistic associate, so basically like an artist whos on the team.Its been around for five full years now, and theres a growing emphasis on collaboration because the best arts, and the best creative output comes from when there is a sort of roundtable approach, and when all artists at the table have something to contribute. With our show I couldnt imagine any other way then to be asking, What do you guys think of this?

ES: So, why Closer?

AJ: Ive always done short plays, but in the back of my mind, in 2008 or 2009 I saw the film version, and right away fell in love and thought, I need to do this play one day. The movie was my first exposure to this story, and then later found out that it was based a play. So we dug up the script, and ever since then Nick and I having been going back and forth and then finally in 2012 everything fits. For me its a dream come true to bring this story to life, in a way thats more faithful to the original story than the movie is. Most peoples idea of Closer is from the movie, but there are certain scenes missing, and the directors interpretation is just one interpretation – but its not the only one.

ES: Lara, how is it playing Alice?

Lara Rova: Lots of people say, who are you playing – the stripper? Are you playing Natalie Portman? Thats a funny way to put it – Im playing Natalie Portman. Im not Natalie Portman. I like what she did in that movie but I think you kind of have to wipe it away. Ive been trying to make it my own. Ive been getting dance coaching for that infamous stripper scene.

ES: What else will be different about your version?

AJ: The ending is different. In the film you see Alice proudly walking down the street in New York, and you know that shes okay, but the play is different. Its less bright for Alice. The movie kind of sanitized the ending – Hollywoodized it. In the play theres actually one full scene where the other characters, Anna and Larry, have a full conversation of why theyre no longer together, and where theyve moved on. Its kind of  an epilogue, so for people who like the film its kind of like a bonus.

ES: Will it be as emotional as the film?

AJ: There are real tears. There are a lot of intense emotional moments in the play – parts where peoples hearts get trampled on – where their ideas of love dont come to fruition. Its gonna hit people hard. There will be something in every scene that people will remember and will resonate with them.

LR: Weve also been finding the humour in the script and the flow of the text, that maybe isnt as emphasized in the tone of the movie.

AJ: Yeah, theres gotta be a balance. You dont wanna barrage people with tragedy, and the tragic moments will fit in and resonate better if theyre balanced with lighter moments. Its been important for us to bring out some of the funnier moments, because if theres one flaw of the film, its that its pessimistic about relationships and gets sour on people. Thats not necessarily implied by the script. Were trying to show a different side of the story.The play is called Closer, and I think that is about our desire to get closer to another human being. Its tough because all of us have fears, insecurities, jealousies.

ES: This play is popular with actors. Was it hard to choose them?

AJ: We were bombarded with actors. We had two full days of auditions. The caliber of the 50 or 60 people come out, the bravery, theyd be like, Hey Im so-and-so, and then theyd be on the ground sobbing and screaming to the heavens. They are showing you these beautiful moments of humanity and life. You learn a lot about people.

ES: It sounds like people will have a really emotional experience at this play.

AJ: You live through it through the actors on the stage. Thats the number one reason I chose this play and thats the number one reason I direct – to make people connect. To show people what it means to be alive, and to fight, to struggle. Theatre can do that.

Closer is at the Vancity Culture Centre at the Cultch Nov 8-17.

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