We got a really nice write-up in the Coloradoan (Stacy Nick wrote it) yesterday on Shining City. Although for some reason i think i look like a murderer in the pic they chose to run. :)
Conor McPherson's "Shining City" is a haunting ghost story.
But this tale is more psychological than supernatural (although there are elements of the beyond too).
In openstage etc's production, the play begins with a ghost story told by widower John (played by Joe Vader); his audience is Ian, a newly licensed therapist who, up until recently, was a priest. In Ian's cramped Dublin office - equipped with little more than a couple of chairs, a hot plate and a broken door buzzer - John relays the story of his wife, Mari's, recent passing in a car accident and the multiple sightings he's had of her since.
A multitude of questions are running through John's mind - not the least of which include what Mari's ghost wants. The couple's communication had been disintegrating for years (partially the result of being unable to have children): just before Mari's accident the couple had a violent falling out.
Everyone in "Shining City" is struggling to connect with someone, anyone. When he couldn't connect with his wife, John tells of a failed attempt at an affair with another woman; Ian left the church for his girlfriend, Neasa, and their daughter, but then abruptly ends their relationship.
A string of unrest also trails throughout the play - no one is where they think they should be. "You go searching," John says. "Not searching, I wasn't going anywhere searching for anything, but I think I was always slightly waiting, you know?"
The waiting leads each of the cast members to shady connections - John tells of a disastrous trip to a brothel, Neasa admits to a one-time affair (the result, she says, of feeling trapped in Ian's parents' home), even Ian - after splitting from Neasa - finds himself living in his office and seeking comfort on the streets of Dublin.
McPherson is a master of dialogue - every phrase is fraught with meaning and each pause carries the story further, rather than delaying it. The familiarity and awkwardness of each conversation gives the audience the feeling that they are voyeurs witnessing a moment not meant for their eyes. It's a feeling that is amplified by the talented cast.
Joe Vader may be best known for his business success (he's the Joe of Fort Collins bar Lucky Joe's) but his performance as John is stunningly deft; he adroitly handling purposefully awkward dialogue scattered with pauses and "You knows." Kurt Brighton also turns in a strong performance as Ian, conveying a quietness that screams more and more loudly as the story continues.
While they only have a limited time on stage, Lorraine Larocque (as Neasa) and Caleb Gilbert (as Laurence) both make a big impact. Wielding an impeccable Irish brogue, Larocque completely inhabits the role of a desperate woman watching her life slip through her fingers. Gilbert is unsettlingly good as a homeless man looking to make money any way he has to.
Kudos also must go to co-directors Matthew G. Smith and Emelie Borelio for letting the play's subtle nuances command the audience's attention; rather than attempting to insert any manufactured drama, they allow every moment to unfold in its own time, as it should.
Without giving away the ending, "Shining City" will leave you with more questions than answers, but in a contemplative, rather than an empty, way.
In fact, "Shining City" shines more from what it doesn't say than what it does.