Posted by: dougery | January 22, 2008

Shining City

Last evening Croftie took me out to the theater. It was opening night for Conor McPherson’s Shining City at the Goodman and despite my lingering cold I was excited to go. I knew nothing about the play save for what little I’d gleaned from Croftie’s magazine, that it was a ghost story of sorts, but without actual ghosts. Sort of. But not really. Or something like that. I don’t know what I was expecting but I was definitely surprised, and in a good way.

Have you ever seen something patently ridiculous in a piece of artwork, a line in a poem say, or a single scene from a film and thought “wow, that really doesn’t belong here”? It is impossible to see the last few seconds of Shining City and not feel the same way, however, sometimes these ridiculous ‘extras’ or indulgences just feel… right on. Let me try and explain this… these moments or segments have both the feel of something superfluous and yet somehow make sense and almost through their sheer ridiculous nature, tie themselves back into the whole. I’m probably not explaining that very well at all, but if you were to see the ‘surprise ending’ as the Goodman has advertised it, you’d know exactly what I’m saying. You might disagree with me about the piece fitting back in to the whole part of my equation, but thats what opinions are for.

There are some real powerful scenes in Shining City, most of them culled from an older married man’s devastated psyche after he flirts with a younger woman and then suddenly loses his wife in a tragic accident. This man (played by John Judd) goes to see a psychiatrist who we learn has his fair share of issues as well, but the shrink helps the old dude to talk his way through the painful recent events of his life. Rather than let these moments inform his own life, the psychiatrist apparently learns nothing at all, tries to bury certain undesirable feelings and experiences of his own life and ends up trading places with his patient towards the end.

The ending turns out to be not quite a surprise, but it is good for a scare. There is more than a little of the film Don’t Look Now and that’s all I will give away. I jumped quite a bit and there were a few screams from the audience as well. I was nowhere close to scream out loud, not near the Wait Until Dark level of fright, but the hackles on my neck rose and I got me some shivers and that was fun enough. Croftie is not a big fan of the ending, but then she has a closeness to the play that I lack, she’s been working in its proximity for months now, so maybe the novelty has kind of soured for her. She also rightfully plays the ‘they packed too much stuff into one play’ card, what with the ghosts, affairs, loved one’s deaths, baby drama, and confused homosexuality. That’s enough for half a dozen plays, but either way, a fun night and a moving drama.

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