'Closer' is a cautionary tale on love, desire, and betrayal in modern relationships

Closer at Windmill Arts Center
"Closer" is on stage at the Windmill Arts Center starting Jan. 28. (Courtesy of: Chad Darnell)

The Tony-nominated play “Closer” by Patrick Marber takes a microscope to modern relationships. Set in the ’90s, it follows two couples’ intertwining lives, as the partners get caught between love, desire and betrayal. “Closer” hits the stage this weekend, Friday through Sunday, at the Windmill Arts Center in East Point. Director and actor Jeff Cole, who plays the character Larry, joined “City Lights” host Lois Reitzes via Zoom along with Chad Darnell, the actor portraying Dan.

Interview highlights:

A timely play about balancing love and self-interest:

“A lot of people asked me … ‘Why this play now?’ And I thought really intensely about what we’ve just come out of with the isolation, with the pandemic, and how so many people were forced to rely on themselves, selfishly — to survive, to maintain their sanity … and coming out of that, and reintegrating into a relationship,” said Cole. “When you have that mindset, that selfish focus that needs to fulfill, what does that look like in relationships?”

“The two couples engage in a love square, so to speak,” Cole said. “They all are finding each other and losing each other along the way, meanwhile, learning and discovering things about themselves and about their relationships and their partners that are life-changing. So without any spoilers, they are at the height of these relationships and at the depth of their relationships at the same time.”

Jeff and Chad on playing Larry and Dan:

“I love Larry,” said Cole. “Larry is a very visceral, ‘chest forward’ man. He lives on his instinct,” said Cole. “He has a bit of an insecurity complex, and he feels ‘less than.’ He’s working class. Even though he’s a doctor, he’s a doctor in a universal healthcare system, so he has a set wage. And so he’s always trying to overcome those things that he feels ‘less than’ in, while still minding his instincts and appreciating life with his intense drive and passion.”

“Dan wants to be in love. He loves the idea of love. He wears his heart on his sleeve, but he does really bad things. We’ve all dated people like that,” said Darnell.

“If you were just to read the script, you would think, oh, he’s the villain in the movie, but he’s not, and none of them are. They’re all deeply flawed, damaged characters … I immediately discovered Dan is not a narcissist, but I also talked to Jeff about how what Dan does to these two women, I’ve had done to me in relationships,” said Darnell. “He’s just this raw, disturbed character who wants the truth in everything but yet lies to both of these women.”

How playwright Patrick Marber reveals genuine, messy relationships:

“Whenever we come into a relationship seeking to fulfill something missing in ourselves … we set the relationship up to fail,” said Cole. “These relationships are all based on each individual’s selfish need, and not compromise, and not giving to the other sacrificially. Everything is about, ‘What can I get from this?’”

“The interesting thing that Marber does is he makes these characters say out loud and do out loud what most people’s subtext is. He makes us speak it. He makes us tell what’s really going on inside,” Cole said. “I say things in this show as Larry, and Chad does as Dan, that I don’t think I would ever say to my lover in real life, even if it was the truth … I think Marvin did a wonderful job making us speak out loud the subtext, the truth. But also as actors, our job is to bring the empathetic connection to the character so you don’t hate us, so that you feel for us in the end.”

“Closer,” a play by Patrick Marber and directed by Jeff Cole, runs Jan. 28-30 at the Windmill Arts Center in East Point. More information and tickets are available here