New Jersey Repertory Company must be the proudest ‘parent’ in the theater world. When giving birth to each of their world premiere plays, they regale them with the greatest birthday party a playwright could imagine. Richard Dresser’s CLOSURE, the 105th play of their remarkable 18 seasons, is no exception.
First, the party guests – a cast that Broadway might envy. To their recent list of world-class actors like Jill Eikenberry, Dan Lauria, Michael Tucker, and others, add Wendie Malick and Gary Cole. Their amazing contributions toward making CLOSURE a must-see summer show cannot be over-stated. Although currently known for their work on small-screen comedies (she on “Hot in Cleveland” and he on “Veep”), both do compelling work in this primarily dramatic stage play about parents whose teenage daughter has gone missing on a Dutch-run Caribbean island. Malick plays Jane, the teen’s distressed mom, and Cole is Roy, the island’s police detective. They are ably joined by Victor Verhaeghe as Peter, Jane’s distant husband, and Biniam Tekola as Ken, the waiter selling something more than drinks. Cole anchors the play with a self-assured confidence, skillfully dealing with Jane’s rum-soaked search for closure. Malick and Cole have a palpable chemistry that makes it clear that Dresser’s narrative has some twists and turns in store.
Then there’s the party favors – an absolutely stunning physical production designed by Jessica Parks. The play’s action requires several different locations and Parks skillfully gives us a tropical setting that takes full advantage of every inch of the theater’s shoe box stage without ever looking cramped. Parks even manages to hint at a neo-noir vibe in Roy’s office, outfitting it with a rotary fan, metal file cabinet, coffee maker, and old school black phone – all without looking dated. Jill Nagle’s blue and green infused tropical lighting and Patricia E. Doherty’s skillfully complementary costumes are equally impressive. Merek Royce Press supplies steel drum-based music to blend with the sounds of the surf. All of this is under the skilled and focused direction of Joe Cacaci.
The much-expected twists in the plot will come as no shock to any viewer of “Cold Case.” With only four characters, the play’s 90 intermissionless minutes provide plenty of time for pondering the possibilities. Dresser’s script sometimes meanders and misfires, but Cole and Malick manage to make even the less compelling moments watchable. While considering the actual fate of Jane’s daughter, you can be forgiven for imagining a brand new prime time detective series starring Cole and Malick – a sort of island “Hart to Hart.” Like CLOSURE, it would be well worth watching.
The world premiere engagement of CLOSURE by Richard Dresser continues at New Jersey Repertory Company, 179 Broadway, Long Branch, New Jersey, through July 19th. For tickets and information visit www.njrep.org or call 732-229-3166. Reviewed by Michael T. Mooney June 28, 2015 at 7:00pm