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Adagio Teas
   Features  >  NY Theater Reviews

 
DYING CITY
at the Mitzi Newhouse Theatre, Lincoln Center

PAST PERFECT
By Stuart Miller

  Rebecca Brooksher and Pablo Schreiber/Photo: Joan Marcus

Two actors. One single sparse set. Ninety minutes. In the hands of the talented Christopher Shinn, that's more than enough to explore sibling rivalries, the lasting influence of dysfunctional families, the aftereffects of 9/11 on this nation's psyche, the divisive impact of the Iraq war on personal relationships, the corrosiveness of secrets and the pain caused (sometimes purposefully) by their inevitable revelation, and the depths to which hateful (and self-hating) men can sink. Oh, yes, and whether Liev Schreiber really is the most talented Schreiber currently appearing onstage in New York.

Shinn's haunting new play Dying City at Lincoln Center stars Liev's younger brother Pablo Schreiber as Peter, a gay actor who shows up unannounced at the door of Kelly (Rebecca Brooksher), whose husband Craig-Peter's identical twin-died in Iraq. Schreiber also plays Craig in flashbacks as well, differentiating between Peter and Craig with small but telling ways in his body language and vocal inflections. Fresh off a Tony nomination last season for Awake and Sing, Schreiber never strikes a false note in either of the self-involved men. Brooksher beautifully conveys the seemingly never-ending levels of hurt both inflict; she is vulnerable and she suffers but she is never reduced to a patsy.

There is little in the way of traditional action in the present tense: Kelly has been avidly avoiding Peter prompting him to show up unbidden. The two dance around each other and Craig's lingering presence for as long as possible but ultimately the past intrudes on the present. A series of devastating flashbacks woven between the present scenes, reveals that nothing was truly what it seemed in any of the relationships and by the end of the play Peter and Kelly confront the truth about Craig's life and his death depriving them of even finding solace in their memories.

James Macdonald's restrained and sharply focused direction keeps the play hurtling toward its painful finale. He pulls off the obviously theatrical device of sending Schreiber off-stage as one brother and having him back as the other with a minimum amount of fuss. The sole bit of flash, such as it is, is so subtle it may go unnoticed at first: every few minutes the stage rotates a quarter-turn. That idea-clever but not show-offy is perfectly in keeping with Shinn's play. And of course the shifting stage, like the play itself, keeps the audience off-balance, forcing everyone to rethink their perceptions of what they think they see and know.

 


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