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Theatre Review: Dying City

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(Sacramento, CA)
Monday, July 30, 2012

You could say that "Dying City" is a miracle of dark economy. The entire play takes place in one room - the living room of an apartment, with a view of the New York City skyline. And there are just three characters -- two brothers, identical twins, and the woman married to one of them.

Sound simple, yet playwright Christopher Shinn ingeniously layers a vast array of topics into his wide-ranging, disquieting script. Sometimes, ideas flash by like meteors, like this regretful observation about why Hollywood's gone downhill.

Kelly: "Think about why we don't have any Brandos, or James Deans anymore. It's all so coroporate controlled. Nobody's writing a part that a Brando… Imagine Brando in 'Titanic.' Or James Dean in 'Lord of the Rings.'"

But more often, this gritty play zeros in on how big disasters color tense personal relationships. The recently married husband and wife are at odds about starting a family because they can't get past the shadow of the 9/11 cataclysm both experienced.
Kelly: Peter asked if we were going to have a baby. Were you just saying it to please him?
Craig: Kelly, we've talked about this 100 times. I want to wait until I'm teaching. I don't want to take more money from your father.
Kelly: I don't see what the big deal is.
Craig. The big deal is that he's a c**k. Jesus, we talked about starting a family, sitting right on that couch. Looking out at the cloud of death, hanging over the city.
Kelly: Please, please don't invoke that.
Each character carries a closely-held secret, or gets caught in a lie. Playwright Shinn clearly reveres American dramatists like Eugene O'Neill and Tennessee Williams, whose great plays dealt with similar moral failings. Shinn's stressed-out characters try to avoid talking about the big elephant in the room. . . but that never works.

Driving the show are strong performances by Lyndsy Kail and Chad Deverman, who plays both twins.

"Dying City" is jarring, by design. But this production at Capital Stage yields an unsettling dramatic payoff that will leave you with plenty to chew on.

Dying City continues at Capital Stage through August 12th.

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