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Adagio Teas
   Features  >  NY Theater Reviews

 
SHINING CITY
at Irish Repertory Theatre

GHOST STORY
By MATT WINDMAN

  Billy Carter and Lisa Dwan/ Ph: Carol Rosegg

The Irish Repertory Theatre’s fine revival of Conor McPherson’s 90-minute ghost-story drama Shining City marks the first production to be presented at the company’s longtime space in Chelsea following an extensive physical renovation. (During construction, they relocated to the tiny DR2 Theatre on Union Square.) But perhaps just as noteworthy, it contains Tony nominee Matthew Broderick’s most believable and dramatically sound performance in a very long time.

The company is no stranger to McPherson’s work, having previously presented The Weir to great acclaim under the direction of Ciaran O’Reilly (who returns for Shining City). It’s heartening to have the Irish Rep devote its resources to contemporary Irish writers like McPherson and Martin McDonagh in addition to Shaw and O’Neill and the occasional musical.

Produced in New York by Manhattan Theatre Club in 2006 with a cast that included Brian F. O’Byrne, Oliver Platt and Martha Plimpton, Shining City closely examines Ian (Billy Carter), a priest turned aspiring therapist, as he meets with John (Broderick), a mild-mannered, troubled widower who describes in detail how he can still see his late wife, his on-and-off girlfriend Neasa (Lisa Dwan) and Laurence (James Russell), a male prostitute. By the end, as Ian gets ready to move on with his life and move out of his office, John leaves behind something (or rather someone) unexpected.

As in The Weir, Shining City relies heavily on narrated storytelling, as seen in John’s lengthy, uninterrupted confessions during therapy, where Ian just listens silently to John. If you can resist the temptation to tune out from the lack of movement, McPherson does provide rich detail and lots of intrigue. That said, I prefer Ian’s more emotionally charged scenes with Neasa and Laurence, which bookend the sessions with John.

O’Reilly’s richly textured production benefits from both an excellent ensemble and the intimacy of the Irish Rep, and it is ultimately more effective than the 2006 Broadway premiere. Carter makes Ian, a quiet character who can seem dull and underwritten in lesser hands, mysterious enough to be captivating. But Broderick’s fine performance is the real surprise here, considering how phony and embarrassing so much of his recent work has been (Nice Work If You Can Get It, It’s Only a Play, The Philanthropist, The Odd Couple). It’s as he went on playing the nerdy, absent-minded Leo Bloom from The Producers for an additional 15 years. He hasn’t completely shaken that off here, but he is on his way to becoming a good actor again. Perhaps he ought to spend more time Off-Broadway. 

 


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