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Theater Review by Deirdre Sinnott

Shining City, by Conor McPherson



What would Jane Austin have made of text messaging? In matter of love and courtship the undisputed queen of “proper” romance and plucky heroines might have predicted great potential for misbehavior in high-tech flirtation.


Conor McPherson’s play about self-realization, belief, guilt, grief, and struggle for sanity in an unpredictable world, exposes us to the unchanging universality of desire. One character, John, convincingly and delightfully played by Oliver Platt, describes his momentary text-message flirtation with all the heart-pounding fear and joy that one might have found at an 18th century ball. John arrives at the flat of his new therapist, Ian, played by Brian F. O’Byrne. He is deeply in shock after the sudden death of his wife. Only in his grief does he realize that his chance to communicate with his partner has been snatched away. He is haunted by loss and crazy with guilt -- driven by the extramarital flirtation.


Ian listens and tries to comfort John, but he has problems of his own. Recently released from the Catholic priesthood and father to a new baby, his journey of self-knowledge has continued beyond his expectations, irreparably damaging his relationship with Neasa, played by Martha Plimpton.


While the story of the search for a path in life with all of its accidents, unfinished business, and uncertainty, is compelling the thing that stands out is the fine writing. The dialogue crackles with authenticity. The audience gets the feeling that the characters are truly trying to articulate their inner thoughts and feelings before out eyes as they struggle and grope for a way forward.


Platt, O’Byrne, Plimpton and Peter Scanavino, who plays a dusty youth, inhabit their parts with skill and commitment. Playwright Conor McPherson presents us with our messy lives, without commenting on the right and wrong of our actions. Only showing that it’s how we handle adversity that defines and rules us.


Copyright © Deirdre Sinnott, 5/13/06.

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