Dependable Erection

Thursday, March 06, 2008


Thanks to Katje at Manbites Dog, Mrs. D and i got to take in last night's performance of Dying City. The two person production takes place entirely in the Manhattan apartment of Kelly Conners, played by Dana Marks, and tracks between two separate, parallel conversations therein. The first is between Kelly and her brother-in-law Peter, whom she hasn't seen in a year and who drops in unexpectedly one evening. The second, about 16 months prior, shows the last night together of Kelly and her husband Craig, who is shipping out to Iraq the following morning. Craig and Peter are twins, played by Jay O'Berski. The event at which Kelly and Peter last saw each other, one year earlier, is Craig's funeral.

Things, of course, are not what they seem. And as the parallel conversations unfold we get deeper into the darker sides of the tangled relationships between these three people. A TV showing alternately scenes from Law and Order, Congressional hearings involving Ted Kennedy and Donald Rumsfeld, and The Daily show with Jon Stewart, provides a Greek chorus of context and commentary.

But the play's not a polemic. In a pre-show interview, O'Berski explains.
MDT: So right away with a character bio that includes Harvard—a credential earned on an ROTC scholarship, no less—we know that Mr. Shinn isn’t writing the standard-issue war protest play—


MDT:—or a reprise of Fahrenheit 9/11. In fact, it seems the war itself is more of an offstage specter, right? Something beaming out of the TV or a faraway job that Craig can disappear into.

O’BERSKI: I think Dying City is the first—at least as far as I can tell—of the sort of second generation war or 9/11 plays, just like in the late 80s and early 90s you had all these second-generation AIDS plays that where only tangentially about AIDS and more about the aftershock.

That's not to say that the message of Dying City is explicitly one of reaction to the Iraq conflict. There are complex metaphors on the stage, twin brothers who choose completely different paths in life, the abusive childhoods experienced by all the characters, the wife who's a therapist, the soldier whose death may have been an accident, may have been suicide. And after watching these characters being emotionally wrung dry i wasn't particularly sure i had gotten all of the explicit relationships between them, let alone decoded the underlying semiotics. I've spent most of the morning trying to.

Good theater does that.

Dying City plays through Saturday night.

Other reviews here and here.

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