A Review

Betrayal and Avoidance

By R. J. Donovan

Twin brothers. Different personalities.  Different agendas.

Lyric Stage Company is presenting the New England premiere of Christopher Shinn's "Dying City," a taut, tense drama about the search for truth -- truth in relationships and politics stretching from Manhattan to Iraq.

Peter and Craig are twins.  Peter is a so-so gay actor, Craig is a straight-as-an-arrow soldier.  As the story opens, Craig has been dead one year, killed in Iraq.  Unannounced, Peter arrives at the home of Craig's wife, Kelly. But why?

Over the next 90 minutes, the story slides back and forth from the present to the past and back again.  The trick is that one actor plays both brothers.  This necessitates one character exiting to the bedroom occasionally so the other can arrive.  The only time all three characters share the stage, symbolically anyway, is during a nicely laid out sequence where Peter reads one of Craig's emails to Kelly. 

Shinn reveals the issues of the trio's complex relationships regarding love, commitment, intimacy and the scars of grief in sharply written dialogue -- some of it harsh and hurtful. Without giving too much away, Craig and Kelly's last night together was far from loving.  And Peter's hazy reason for practically stalking his former sister-in-law is jarring. At the same time, it's what's NOT said and who's NOT there that proves equally powerful.

In the double roles of Peter and Craig, Chris Thorn is effective as he shifts back
and forth between the two.  To his credit, he accomplishes the difficult task of convincing you that two different characters exist in front of you with the simple swap of a shirt.

As Kelly (who's a therapist), Jennifer Blood is keeping secrets of her own.  What's admirable is the way she sketches a woman who doesn't see (or perhaps can't wrangle) the issues of her own life. The whole "physician heal thyself" comes to mind.

Scenic design is by Skip Curtiss, who, in a nice touch, has scorched the edges of the set and added the subtle touch of mirrors throughout the apartment.

"Dying City" has been mounted at Lincoln Center and in London's West End to acclaim.  And Shinn is carving out a place for himself as one of the new voices in American theater. In this case, he has put a face on the personal and political wars we wage while showing how deceptive we can be in battle.

"Dying City"is at Lyric Stage, 140 Clarendon Street in Boston, through November 11. For information, call 617-585-5678.

-- OnStage Boston




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