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New York City Theater

"Dying City"
Mitzi E. Newhouse Theater

How ironic that New York wasnicknamed "Baghdad on the Hudson." Christopher Shinn’s 90-minute, intermissionless "Dying City" evokes both places in an often compelling study of loss, grief, and the ever-present wounds of violence that war can bring. Not only two cities, but a pair of twins and the Twin Towers permeate the work which eventually twists and turns back on itself. Like war, it’s a maze with no exit.

The tragedies of 9/11 and Iraq hang over the piece like a toxic cloud. When Kelly, a therapist, is unexpectedly visited by Peter, the gay brother of her dead husband, the past is regurgitated. Like the characters in “Journey’s End,” they talk of the mundane, here of television and making tea, but they’re really trying to work through their fear and anger.

All have nighttime sweats. Kelly tries to escape the remnants of her failed marriage, while the self-absorbed Peter juggles career and boyfriends. The intellectual Craig, appearing in flashbacks, spread destruction wherever he went and died in Iraq under mysterious circumstances. Public and private horrors are interconnected.

Newcomer Rebecca Brooksher makes an auspicious debut as Kelly, while Pablo Schreiber creates two distinct characters as Peter and Craig. Director James Macdonald finds all sorts of ways to vary what could be a static two-hander.

How can we not help being reminded of the words of General William Tecumseh Sherman. “War is hell,” he said. “It is only those who have neither fired a shot nor heard the shrieks and groans of the wounded who cry aloud for blood, more vengeance, more desolation.

-- David A. Rosenberg
March 11, 2007

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