Close Up Space

When I saw the title design for Close Up Space (close as in, “close the door,” not, “we were close friends”), I geeked out over the copyediting mark, and immediately knew this was something I wanted to see. As to be expected, though, Close Up Space had a double meaning. Yes, it refers to closing up a space within a manuscript (our protagonist is an editor at a New York publishing house), but it also refers to closing up the space between a father and daughter. This is an intriguing premise, rife with opportunities for pathos and soul searching. That’s all there, but Close Up Space still misses the mark.

To put it succinctly, as Paul (David Hyde Pierce) – the editor – would demand, Close Up Space needs an editor. Not necessarily to trim down the play (which, as swiftly directed by Leigh Silverman, clocks in just under 90 minutes); rather, it needs an editor to trim the unnecessary and help tighten up the focus and develop certain characters.

Set entirely in Paul’s Tandem Books office (Todd Rosenthal’s set is full of rich details), we first meet Paul as he demonstrates for his new intern, Bailey (Jessica DiGiovanni), how to edit a communiqué. We soon meet Paul’s office manager, Steve (the terrific Michael Chernus, who, as Steve, provides a touching foil to Paul’s clenched-jaw Type-A personality), his star author Vanessa (an impressive and restrained Rosie Perez) and Paul’s daughter, Harper (Colby Minifie).

The thing is, Bailey is totally superfluous. She’s a throw-away character and the actress doesn’t do much to bring her to life. If I was editing the play, I would 86 the intern and spend more time developing Vanessa. There isn’t a lot on the page but Perez does a great job of filling the character gaps.

Moreover, I would recommend the playwright, Molly Smith Metzler, be more discerning in her literary allusions. Certainly, the allusions were chosen with purpose, but they also seem to appear as a crutch. Instead of providing some penetrating insight, those allusions (as I interpreted them) serve as both a white flag (as in, “I can’t figure out how to say this so I’m going to let Shakespeare do it for me”) and a plea for attention (as in, “I’m so smart—look what I know!”). We saw this smarty-pants show off bit in MTC’s last production, We Live Here. It’s more forgivable in Close Up Space, since it’s set in the literary world. Still, when I see a new play, I want to hear what its author has to say, not which poetess was her favorite.

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