Barrington Stage Company, Pittsfield, MA
through July 11, 2015
by Jarice Hanson
If this review had a title, it would be “A Perfect Night at the Theater.” Shining City is a well-crafted, thoughtful play full of surprises by Conor McPherson, interpreted impeccably by a talented cast that includes Mark H. Dold, Wilbur Edwin Henry, Deanna Gibson, and Patrick Ball. Director Christopher Innvar knows how to use the intimate space of the St. Germain stage to full advantage, and draws the audience into the action from the subtle, pre-curtain rainfall in the background to the last moment of the 95-minute production that takes your breath away.
|Photo by David Fertik|
The story begins with the awkward first meeting of a psychologist and his a new client. Ian (Dold) and John (Henry) engage in the initial small talk the way men do—staccato utterances peppered with affirmation and uncomfortable attempts to go beyond the superficial, but as John’s pain unfolds, the audiences learns of his late wife and his personal demons. John is suffering and knows that desires are sometimes as misleading as the thoughts he battles in his mind. He is searching for a reality that he knows may not exist, and the reality that emerges brings the stories of the two men into alignment, and simultaneously bridges mind/body, and theare/reality.
The artistic vision shared by every member of the cast and production team is so clear, the audience can’t help but be moved by the individual stories and the sense of aloneness that emerges in Ian’s cold little Dublin office. When John comes to terms with his loss in a brilliantly effective monolog, Ian’s body language not only communicates understanding on multiple levels, but the audience is treated to a master class in acting and interpreting the text. Dold and Henry are a formidable duo, and with McPherson’s words and Innvar’s guiding hand, the production gives its viewers something to think and talk about.
The title, "Shining City," refers to a Biblical passage (the play is Irish, so guilt and religion are expected) but the storytelling is unforgettable.