Sunday, October 5, 2008

"Shining City": ☼ ☼ ☼ BANG baub

It's not often that you sit through an entire show, waiting for an ending that you don't realize is coming, but then when you see that last scene, which lasts on stage no more than ten seconds, you say to yourself "Ah HA! THAT'S what we're talking about! All right!"

Then, a few seconds later, you turn to the lovely lady sitting next to you and say: "What the hell was that?"

Riding home from San Francisco Playhouse, where Conor McPherson's 'Shining City' is having its Bay Area Premiere through November 22, after you get a chance to mull it about for awhile, you realize you just saw a perfect, perfect, perfect ending. The ghost, see, and John's still in Dublin and he doesn't need her anymore, but Ian, well, he does because, see, he's going down to Limerick and that's not gonna work out, 'cuz the ghost, see.

McPherson is Irish, which explains a lot, because nobody does guilt and loss of faith quite like the Irish. It must be all the rain. Not one character can ever finish a sentence -- everything fades out into an existential sigh. Paul Whitworth's John is having a nervous breakdown as he sits on the couch of brand-new therapist Ian (Alex Moggridge), who has his own demons staring him down. John is guilty because he's been a rat to his recently deceased wife, Ian has run out on his family, and Ian's girl friend Neasa (Beth Wilmurt), has just had a casual affair with a mutual friend. Their angst is thick. Of course, it's raining.

Do we believe in ghosts? Nope...yikes, but what's behind the door? You'll see. It's a great yarn. But if a black cat crosses your path on your way into the theater, think about going to see Jersey Boys.

RATINGS ☼ ☼ ☼ BANG baub
The San Francisco Theater Blog Awards Division awards 'Shining City' three solid stars, one each for the two principal actors and one for Amy Glazer's precise direction, which manages to keep us interested through a mountain of talk. The ending is so good it earns a Bangle of Praise all by itself. However, the obligatory Moment of Gayness between Ian and Laurence (Alex Conde) makes so little sense it earns its own bauble of despair.

But no worries. Don't miss 'Shining City.'

"Shining City"
San Francisco Playhouse
533 Sutter Street, San Francisco
Through Nov. 22
Tue-Sat. $40


Anonymous said...

Great show, I loved it too. (Do you think maybe you're giving too much away in a way that will compromise people's experience of it?...) As for the "gay scene" being gratuitous, it seems to me the scene you're referring to adds an essential dimension to the character and his journey. In any case: EVERYBODY GO SEE THIS SHOW!

DAK said...

Yes, I considered that. It felt to me that the author could have worked a bit harder and figured out another way to show us Ian's desperation...or was his one time stand with Laurence supposed to mirror Neasa's? It was grating to me, but I do understand what you say.