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A CurtainUp New Jersey Review
I don't want much, I just want something I can hold onto. I don't care if it's stupid or crazy or wrong. But you've given me nothing. You don't even have the decency to lie to me. — Jane (to Roy)
Photo: Biniam Tekola and Gary Cole (photo credit: SuzAnne Barabas)
Richard Dresser's Closure , now having its world premiere at the NJ Repertory Company, is the equivalent of a summer read, a fast-moving page-turner. In this case, however, it's a ninety-five minute quick-scene changer. Increasingly incredible, but also constantly intriguing, this is that rare-to-surface genre of dramatic literature known familiar if also somewhat condescendingly as a mystery pot-boiler.

Dresser, author of Rounding Third in 2003, has come up with an entertaining whodunnit. Its not especially surprising revelations are rather deftly calculated to keep us intrigued and engrossed.

An emotionally unstable teenage girl has disappeared while vacationing with friends on a Caribbean island. No one seems to have a clue what happened to her but after three months there is still no hard evidence of any foul deed. The girl's mother Jane (Wendie Malick) has determinedly made frequent trips back to the island to keep tabs on her last hope and retainer Roy (Gary Cole), the island's one and only remaining police detective. He has agreed to not let this mystery go unsolved. The visits to the island to consult with Roy have become as frequent as are the notably infrequent ones made by her husband Peter (Victor Verhaeghe.)

The play builds up it steam as its characters of interest become expectedly complicated —and also as the plot becomes effectively more contrived. Peter, who seems resigned to not finding his daughter, may or may not have more incriminating information regarding her disappearance than he is willing to divulge. This is also true for Ken (Biniam Tekola) the young, good-looking native waiter whose side line appears to be supplying ganja (marijuana) and a little romance on a moon-lit beach to adventurous young women.

A series of short confrontational scenes reveal that Jane and Peter's marriage is on the skids. Jane, a fifth grade school teacher has become a heavy drinker and frustrated by Peter's lack of support. Peter, a management consultant, is as suspicious of Jane's relationship with Roy as he is of Roy's method of investigation. Is Ken, a part-time student anxious to get back to his London home for his studies, afraid to tell what he knows? And is Peter afraid to tell Jane what Roy has already found out? Just how long will it take for Jane to put two and two together?

The answer you will probably figure out long before the characters, is less important than watching the skilled performances. An ensemble member of the Steppenwolf Theater Company and a veteran of film and TV, Cole gives a fine and steely persuasive performance. Malick is terrific as the overwrought Jane. Vernaeghe is convincing as the amoral Peter, as is Tekola's Ken.Kudos to scenic designer Jessica Parks for her high-end tropical resort setting.

Prolific director Joe Cacaci (his many hats include that of writer for theater, TV and film as well as co-founding co-Artistic Director of Berkshire Playwrights Lab in Great Barrington, MA) permits the stakes to appear higher even as they get wobblier and more exposed with every twist and convolution.

The audience at the performance I attended seemed to buy into it completely, as I did, allowing for a few audible gasps as predictable perhaps as the trap that finally snaps for full disclosure.

Closure by Richard Dresser
Directed by Joe Cacaci

Cast: Gary Cole (Roy), Wendie Malick (Jane), Biniam Tekola (Ken), Victor Verhaeghe (Peter)
Stage Manager: Jennifer Tardibuono
Scenic Designer: Jessica Parks
Lighting Design: Jill Nagle
Costume Designer: Patricia E. Doherty
Sound Design: Merek Royce Press
Running Time: 1 hour 35 minutes no intermission
NJ Repertory Company, 179 Broadway, Long Branch, NJ
1 - 732 - 229 - 3166
Tickets: $45.00 with senior and student discounts.
Performances Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 8 pm; Saturday at 3 pm and 8 pm; Sunday at 2 pm and 7 pm. and selected Tuesdays and Wednesdays at 7 pm.
From 06/25/15 Opened 06/27/15 Ends 07/19/15
Review by Simon Saltzman based on performance 06/27/15
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