Shining City BROADWAY REVIEWS

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  • NY TIMES

  • NY TIMES

Opening Night:
May 9, 2006
Closing:
July 16, 2006

Theater: Biltmore Theatre / 261 West 47th Street, New York, NY, 10036

Synopsis: 

Conor McPherson new play, now recieiving its American premiere, is set in a Dublin therapist's office. Shining City is the story of a man who has just suffered the tragic loss of his wife, complicated by a startling phenomenon that has begun to occur in his home. But how much of the truth has he revealed to his doctor? And do the secrets we keep haunt us more than we realize? The production stars Oliver Platt and Brían F. O'Byrne. Robert Falls directs.

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  • NEW YORK TIMES REVIEW OF Shining City

    Shining City’ Is Brighter With Matthew Broderick

    Ben Brantley

    June 9, 2016: Seeing a ghost has done wonders for Matthew Broderick. Portraying a widower driven from his home by visions of his dead wife in Conor McPherson’s “Shining City,” a great play being given an exemplary revival by the Irish Repertory Theater, Mr. Broderick turns in his most assured and affecting stage performance in years. In his Broadway appearances of the past decade or so — in “The Odd Couple,” “Nice Work If You Can Get It,” “It’s Only a Play” — this naturally engaging actor came across as, well, disengaged, as if he would rather have been somewhere else. Now, in the uneasy skin of someone who really would rather be any place other than his own haunted house, Mr. Broderick is utterly, palpably there. He is comfortably uncomfortable, in a way that makes audiences both trust the actor and bond with the character. And he sets the tone for Ciaran O’Reilly’s astute and compassionate revival, which opened on Thursday night, of one of the most empathetic ghost stories ever told. Staged in the Irish Repertory’s newly restored but still intimate theater, this production brings out the cozy humanity in a play that probes the darkest corners of our minds. Yes, it lacks the gooseflesh-raising quotient of earlier versions of the show I’ve seen (in London in 2004, and on Broadway two years later); its original music (by Ryan Rumery) is strangely sunny; and this version slightly muffs the play’s spook-house climax. But in swapping dank shadows for a warming clarity, Mr. O’Reilly illuminates the poetic precision of Mr. McPherson’s accomplishment here and makes you realize anew why this Irish playwright is one of the finest dramatists writing in English. As in his “The Weir,” “The Seafarer” and his more recent (and ravishing) “The Night Alive,” there’s not an image or an utterance that doesn’t serve the play’s greater and carefully wrought design. This thorough integration is all the more impressive when you think of how awkward and fitful most of Mr. McPherson’s dialogue sounds. None of the four characters in “Shining City” have what we usually describe as a way with words, or at least not an easily traveled way. They all are prone to verbal stumbles and freezes, and repeated self-corrections that trail off into helpless silences. This is true even of Ian (Jack Carter), a former Roman Catholic priest and now a therapist who has just set up his first office in Dublin. Therapists are celebrated (or notorious, depending on your point of view) for saying little and letting their patients fill in the gaps. But with Ian, this practice seems to be less a matter of professional strategy than of personal bewilderment. He is portrayed by a confidently uncentered Mr. Carter with the anxious, gentle air of a man who longs to provide answers — for himself well as others — but is damned if he can find any close at hand. “I believe you,” he says at the end of the play’s first scene, “that is, I believe. …” And the words dissolve into the chill air of a room that is obviously inadequately warmed by its single space heater. At that point, Ian has just completed his initial session with John (Mr. Broderick), whose explanations for why he’s sought treatment have been riddled with variations on the phrase “Do you know what I mean?” Mr. Broderick turns the interjection into both a conversational tic and a desperately hopeful plea. It could be said that everyone in Mr. McPherson’s universe is implicitly making that plea with every word that’s spoken. It becomes especially clear in this production that Ian and John have an awful lot in common. There’s a reason that their names echo each other. In subsequent meetings with Ian, John reveals more about the hapless relationships in his life with Mari, his dead wife, and others, including an almost-mistress. In the scenes between those meetings, we find Ian effectively acting out the same personal dynamics. There’s the encounter with his estranged partner, Neasa (a fine Lisa Dwan, the nonpareil interpreter of Samuel Beckett), with whom he’s had a baby. Then we see Ian with a street hustler, Laurence (a heartbreaking James Russell), whom he has brought back to the office that doubles as his bed-sit. (Charlie Corcoran designed the set, which Ian furnishes by degrees, and which suggests a much-trafficked way station for lives in transit.) Certainly, even putting specters aside, there’s potential for high-fever sensationalism here. Neasa, angry with Ian for having left her in limbo with his brother and disapproving sister-in-law, reveals a love affair with another man. The scruffy Laurence has his own history of domestic discomfort, and given Ian’s admitted sexual inexperience, the scene could easily slip into one of predatory violence. Yet, while voices are occasionally raised, the prevailing air is of a sad, apologetic gentleness, of fellow feeling among people bruised by life. Both Neasa and Laurence have recent injuries (it’s a leg for her, a hand for him), which gives an extra dimension of awkwardness to even tangential physical contact. You see, any kind of connection in the lonely and luminous city of the title involves pain, which doesn’t mean it’s entirely unwelcome. John describes a visit to a brothel that ends with his being punched in the stomach, yet there’s a part of him that is grateful for the experience; he can at least feel that it actually happened. The apparitions of his wife inspire more complicated emotions: fear, of course, but also guilt, for how little he and Mari communicated when she was alive. Mr. Broderick parses these entangled responses with a mixture of bafflement, self-reproach and something like sacred wonder. He turns the act of being supernaturally haunted into a natural extension of everyday solitariness. Like all of Mr. McPherson’s plays, “Shining City” crosses that same divide with astonishing grace.

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  • NEW YORK TIMES REVIEW OF Shining City

    'Shining City': Conor McPherson's Study of Loneliness in a Crowd

    Ben Brantley

    May 10, 2006: There are never more than two people together at a time in "Shining City," the quiet, haunting and absolutely glorious new play by Conor McPherson that opened last night at the Biltmore Theater. Yet the stage feels as crowded and as solitary as a big-city subway at rush hour — dense with urban lives rubbing against one another while never making contact. To exist is to be alone in Mr. McPherson's Dublin, but it is also to be painfully aware of the countless other lives that touch upon yours. Touching upon, of course, is not the same as actually touching.

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