Friday, June 10, 2016

Off-Broadway Theater Review: Shining City

undefinedMatthew Broderick and Billy Carter. Photo: Carol Rosegg
This Story Just Might Have You Believing in Ghosts
By Lauren Yarger
Broken relationships, guilt and a ghost combine to tell the stories of two men searching for life's answers in Conor McPherson's Shining City getting an Off-Broadway revival at Irish Repertory Theatre.

John (Matthew Broderick, sporting an Irish brogue thanks to Dialect Coach Stephen Gabis) has recently lost his wife in a tragic accident. He has been having trouble sleeping, especially after seeing a terrifying sight: the ghost of his wife. He visits therapist Ian (Billy Carter) in his newly established Dublin office (designed by Charlie Corcoran) to seek help. The timid man has been unable to return home since the disturbing experience which he hopes Ian believes him and doesn't think he is losing his mind.

Ian lends a sympathetic ear as John speaks (often in very long monologues) about his marriage and it soon becomes apparent that guilt over his infidelity might be the real culprit behind his lack of sleep and inability to put his wife's death behind him. Meanwhile, Ian might need a few sessions with a therapist himself.

We discover that he recently left the priesthood and became involved with Neasa (Lisa Dwan), with whom he has a newborn daughter. It's become too much, however, and he seeks to end the relationship with an uncomprehending Neasa who begs him to return with her to his brother's where they have been staying. She feels overwhelmed, alone and unwelcome by Ian's sister-in-law.

Parallels are apparent in the relationship between John and his wife and Ian and Neasa including a deterioration brought on by a lack of communication and infidelity. For Ian there's an added difficulty. In his quest to discover who he is post-priesthood, he considers trying sex with Laurence (James Russell), a prostitute he picks up in the park. 

McPherson's lyrical writing (it certainly helps us not fall asleep during those long monologues -- Broderick appeared to be looking for a couple of lines) has us questioning just who is helping whom here and just what reality is, despite what we see -- or don't see -- right in front of our eyes. Loneliness and desperation (common themes for the playwright, along with ghosts) drip off the sentiments expressed, even as the text is peppered with humor.

Directed here by Ciaran O'Reilly, the 100-minute, no intermission production is engaging, but a special effect fails to have the impact it should, partly because we aren't as frightened as we should be by the character's appearance as costumed by Martha Holly. Let's just say there weren't gasps like there were in the original on Broadway which received two Tony Award nominations and starred Brian O'Byrne and Oliver Platt. This revival is the first since that production in 2006.

Shining City plays through July 3 at Irish Repertory Theatre, 132 West 22nd St., NYC. Performances are Tuesday and Thursday at 7 pm; Wednesday at 3 and 8 pm; Friday and Saturday at 8pm;  Saturday and Sunday at 3 pm. Tickets are $50-$70: irishrep.org; 212-727-2737.

Additional credits;
Lighting Design by Michael Gottlieb; Sound Design by M. Florian Staab's Original Music by Ryan Rumery; Property Design by Sven Henry Nelson.

FAMILY-FRIENDLY FACTORS:
-- Language
-- God's name taken in vain
-- Homosexuality

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Our reviews are professional reviews written without a religious bias. At the end of them, you can find a listing of language, content or theological issues that Christians might want to know about when deciding which shows to see.

** Mature indicates that the show has posted an advisory because of content. Usually this means I would recommend no one under the age of 16 attend.

Theater Critic Lauren Yarger

Theater Critic Lauren Yarger

My Bio

Lauren Yarger has written, directed and produced numerous shows and special events for both secular and Christian audiences. She co-wrote a Christian musical version of “A Christmas Carol” which played to sold-out audiences of over 3,000 in Vermont and was awarded the 2000 Vermont Bessie (theater and film awards) for “People’s Choice for Theatre.” She also has written two other dinner theaters, sketches for church services and devotions for Christian artists.

Yarger trained for three years in the Broadway League’s Producer Development Program, completed the Commercial Theater Institute's Producing Three-Day Training and produced a one-woman musical about Mary Magdalene that toured nationally and closed with an off-Broadway run.

She was a Fellow at the National Critics Institute at the O'Neill Theater Center in Waterford, CT. She writes reviews of Broadway and off-Broadway theater (the only ones you can find in the US with an added Christian perspective) at http://reflectionsinthelight.blogspot.com/.

She is editor of The Connecticut Arts Connection (http://ctarts.blogspot.com), an award-winning website featuring theater and arts news for the state. She is a contributing editor for BroadwayWorld.com and is a theater reviewer for the Manchester Journal-Inquirer. She previously served as Connecticut theater editor for CurtainUp.com and as Connecticut and New York reviewer for American Theater Web.

Yarger is a book reviewer for Publishers Weekly and freelances for other sites. She is a member of the National Book Critics Circle.

She is a freelance writer and playwright and member of The Drama Desk, The Outer Critics Circle, The American Theater Critics Association and The League of Professional Theatre Women. She served as a judge for the SDX Awards presented by the Society of Professional Journalists. She also is a member of the Connecticut Critics Circle and the CT Press Club.

A former newspaper editor and graduate of the University of Missouri’s School of Journalism, Yarger also worked in arts management for the Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts, the Hartford Symphony Orchestra and served for nine years as the Executive Director of Masterwork Productions, Inc. She lives with her husband in West Granby, CT. They have two adult children.

Copyright

All material is copyright 2008- 2017 by Lauren Yarger. Reviews and articles may not be reprinted without permission. Contact reflectionsinthelight@gmail.com

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Key to Content Notes:

God's name taken in vain -- means God or Jesus is used in dialogue without speaking directly to or about them.

Language -- means some curse words are used. "Minor" usually means the words are not too strong or that it only occurs once or twice throughout the show.

Strong Language -- means some of the more heavy duty curse words are used.

Nudity -- means a man or woman's backside, a man's lower front or a woman's front are revealed.

Scantily clad -- means actors' private areas are technically covered, but I can see a lot of them.

Sexual Language -- means the dialogue contains sexually explicit language but there's no action.

Sexual Activity -- means a man and woman are performing sexual acts.

Adultery -- Means a married man or woman is involved sexually with someone besides their spouse. If this is depicted with sexual acts on stage, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Sex Outside of Marriage -- means a man and woman are involved sexually without being married. If this is depicted sexually on stage, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Homosexuality -- means this is in the show, but not physically depicted.

Homosexual activity -- means two persons of the same sex are embracing/kissing. If they do more than that, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Cross Dresser -- Means someone is dressing as the opposite sex. If they do more than that on stage the listing would include the corresponding "sexual activity" and/or "homosexual activity" as well.

Cross Gender -- A man is playing a female part or a woman is playing a man's part.

Suggestive Dancing -- means dancing contains sexually suggestive moves.

Derogatory (category added Fall 2012) Language or circumstances where women are referred to or treated in a negative and demeaning manner.

Other content matters such as torture, suicide or rape will be noted, with details revealed only as necessary in the review itself.

The term "throughout" added to any of the above means it happens many times throughout the show.

Reviewing Policy

I receive free seats to Broadway and Off-Broadway shows made available to all voting members of the Outer Critics Circle and The Drama Desk, the two professional critics organizations with journalists covering NY theater. Journalistically, I provide an unbiased review and am under no obligation to make positive statements. Sometimes shows do not make tickets available to reviewers. If these are shows my readers want to know about (I review all Broadway shows and pertinent Off-Broadway shows), I will purchase a ticket. If a personal friend is involved in a production, I'll let you know, but it won't influence a review. If I feel there is a conflict, I won't review their portion of the production.

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