Reviewed by SHANNON HUSE

First Laydee Productions couldn't have picked a better week to stage Closer, Patrick Marber's play about lust and betrayal. Sex and the City is coming back to TV and Bill Clinton's tell-all memoirs are on sale, so sex and sexual politics are all around us.

Relevance aside, this is a production that deserves to be seen. Director Cameron Rhodes has drawn heartfelt performances from his cast of four and invested what could have been a cynical and heartless piece with a core of humanity that is endearing and compelling.

First performed in London in 1997, Marber's multi-award-winning play explores the relationships of four strangers who fall in and out of lust and love with each other. There is Alice the stripper, Dan the obituary writer turned novelist, Anna the photographer and Larry the dermatologist.

Each character could be an archetype but Marber's beautiful writing creates three-dimensional people whose bad behaviour is all too real.

The cast's performances are equal to the sparkling writing, capturing the contradictions that exist in most of us. Aidee Walker makes the young stripper Alice both vulnerable and resilient while Antony Starr's Dan manages to be lovable, loathsome, pathetic and admirable all at once.

Luanne Gordon's Anna is both reckless and restrained in a role that comes close to being a reprise of her character on The Strip, but has added depth. The standout is David Aston, who somehow makes an unsympathetic character heroic in a riveting performance.

Marber's dialogue captures those train-wreck moments when a relationship is truly over, and the simple staging of this production helps to reinforce the feeling that you are eavesdropping on people's most intimate moments.

The audience is seated on three sides of the stage area and actors walk through the crowd to make their appearances. This thrust style of seating means you can see the emotions on the faces of your fellow audience members and on opening night the laughter and looks of recognition and horror showed that the actors were hitting their marks with deadly accuracy.

The show's design elements are simple but effective in serving the story. There are mainly monochrome props and the only set device is white panelling on the back wall which is used for projection of images and text, most memorably in a scene which shows the transcript of two characters' visit to an internet porn chat room.

The costumes are modern street clothes, and being from Zambesi and Francka Butinar they are highly desirable street clothes.

With plenty of swearing and amoral behaviour, it's a play that will reinforce the SiLo's reputation for staging provocative work. but it is worth remembering that the Auckland Theatre Company got there first (albeit causing an uproar with its subscriber base).

A couple of years down the track, and with Bill Clinton's proclivities back in the headlines, it is possibly less shocking but no less insightful.

This sexy and human version of Closer met my personal benchmarks for theatre - it made me shed a tear and laugh out loud. Go see it before Hollywood makes it into a movie starring Julia Roberts.

When: to July 10