Apr 18, 2007

Shinn's Twins

I was very worried that Christopher Shinn's Dying City had been overrated. I shouldn't have fretted; I loved it, and in a particularly immediate way I haven't loved, let alone responded to, a play in many a moon. The climactic moment, which turns on one manipulative but needy character reading aloud an email from a U.S. soldier serving in Iraq to another damaged, somewhat compromised character, felt like someone was opening a wound I didn't know I had and pouring...not salt on it, exactly, but not comfort either. It was a mind- and soul-bending squirm of self-recognition that immediately made me think of the thesis of Walter Davis' tendentious book Art & Politics (which I've had some trouble getting through, truth be told): that theater is uniquely suited to this sort of skin-crawlingly intimate communion, that it can expose and transform our shared pain in ways no other medium can. I remain skeptical that only theater can do this, but Dying City makes as strong a case as anything I've seen in a long time that art can speak to us where we live now without shouting, preaching, or cheating.

Speaking of which, I had the pleasure of speaking to Dying City star Pablo Schreiber for this piece, to the L.A. homeboys doing a bangup job at 59E59 in Athol Fugard's Exits and Entrances, and to the delightful John Glover, stepping in as the show-queen lead of Drowsy Chaperone.

(p.s. Looking for production pictures, I googled the words "dying city photos" and like the 10th entry was, soberingly, this.)

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