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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.”

That’s 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 SHIFT’s 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 who’s on the team.It’s been around for five full years now, and there’s 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 couldn’t imagine any other way then to be asking, “What do you guys think of this?”

ES: So, why Closer?

AJ: I’ve 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 it’s a dream come true to bring this story to life, in a way that’s more faithful to the original story than the movie is. Most people’s idea of Closer is from the movie, but there are certain scenes missing, and the director’s interpretation is just one interpretation – but it’s 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?” That’s a funny way to put it – I’m playing Natalie Portman. I’m not Natalie Portman. I like what she did in that movie but I think you kind of have to wipe it away. I’ve been trying to make it my own. I’ve 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 she’s okay, but the play is different. It’s less bright for Alice. The movie kind of sanitized the ending – Hollywoodized it. In the play there’s actually one full scene where the other characters, Anna and Larry, have a full conversation of why they’re no longer together, and where they’ve moved on. It’s kind of  an epilogue, so for people who like the film it’s 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 people’s hearts get trampled on – where their ideas of love don’t come to fruition. It’s gonna hit people hard. There will be something in every scene that people will remember and will resonate with them.

LR: We’ve also been finding the humour in the script and the flow of the text, that maybe isn’t as emphasized in the tone of the movie.

AJ: Yeah, there’s gotta be a balance. You don’t wanna barrage people with tragedy, and the tragic moments will fit in and resonate better if they’re balanced with lighter moments. It’s been important for us to bring out some of the funnier moments, because if there’s one flaw of the film, it’s that it’s pessimistic about relationships and gets sour on people. That’s not necessarily implied by the script. We’re 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. It’s 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, they’d be like, “Hey I’m so-and-so,” and then they’d 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. That’s the number one reason I chose this play and that’s 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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