A Spectre Calls

The four characters in Patrick Marber's Closer bring ghosts along with them, too— they're haunted by past selves and former relationships. "Nobody changes," one of them says in the last scene, but it's not for lack of trying: the young girl changes her name, the journalist tackles a novel, the medico moves from national health to private practice. And, of course, they switch partners— the piece is Les Liaisons dangereuses with the moral component removed, carried on in the alternately blunt and secretive spirit of a cutthroat bridge tournament. As in his earlier play, Dealer's Choice, Marber is sharply observant in mapping the clashes that arise as his compulsively faithless characters dive eagerly toward their next betrayal. As before, he's less sharp in finding a dra- matic shape for his observations. Once you've grasped the rules of the game, the scenes begin to echo each other till the last few confrontations seems just another turn of the screwed. You start to wonder why these people spend all their quality time together discussing what they did with their previous lovers; the dialogue takes on the flattened sound of Pinter with the pauses filled in. As in Dealer's Choice, a homophile element is toyed with and then fastidiously left unexplored; Patrick Marber plays must be as dangerous to be queer in as Wyoming.

Enid Graham and Rocco Sisto in The Turn of the Screw: changing old ambiguities into theatrical Jamesmanship
James Leynse
Enid Graham and Rocco Sisto in The Turn of the Screw: changing old ambiguities into theatrical Jamesmanship


The Turn of the Screw
Adapted by Jeffrey Hatcher from the story by Henry James
Primary Stages
354 West 45th Street

By Patrick Marber
Music Box Theatre
Broadway and 45th Street

Still, the diminishing returns and the dubiety don't set in till very late. His own director, Marber's handled a strong quartet of actors skillfully, with waiflike Anna Friel and suavely impassive Rupert Graves making the most vivid impressions. In other respects, the author's directorial gifts are sadly meager: Paddy Cunneen's incidental music seems to be left over from the early 1930s, and Vicki Mortimer's set is the maximally unattractive execution of a truly sophomoric idea. In front of what looks at first like a tower of discarded video screens, the furniture from each scene is pulled upstage as that for the next scene comes on. Instead of a park, the last scene appears to take place in a Salvation Army thrift shop. I prefer ghosts; their omnipresence causes less clutter.

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