Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Mosaic Theatre: Dying City (4 reviews)

DYING CITY by Christopher ShinnMosaic Theatre opened its production of Christopher Shinn's Dying City on April 15, 2010.
A year after her husband's death in Iraq, Kelly, a young therapist, confronts his identical twin brother, who shows up at her apartment unannounced. At first it seems to be a story of a wife and brother left grieving after a soldier's baffling death in Iraq, but as the layers are peeled away, we find it a tender, then shockingly raw and complex, portrait of three very different people.
Richard Jay Simon directed a cast that featured Erin Joy Schmidt and Ricky Waugh.

The Sun-Sentinel has declined to review this production.*

Hap Erstein reviewed for the Palm Beach ArtsPaper:
...a smart move for artistic director Richard Jay Simon...
There are enough unanswered by questions in‭ ‬Dying City to keep us leaning in,‭ ‬straining to crack its code,‭ ‬to solve its enigmas.‭ ‬And at Mosaic,‭ ‬it is performed so ably that watching the two actors is often satisfying enough.‭ ‬
Schmidt only plays one character,‭ ‬but the divergent moods she conveys on those two fateful days offer her the opportunity to show quite an emotional range.‭ ‬As for Waugh,‭ ‬his delineation of the two brothers is quite crafty.‭ ‬He draws differences with subtlety,‭ ‬as well as sibling connections and similarities.‭ ‬Shinn can be a bit clunky with his structure,‭ ‬so that we soon know that when Peter ducks into a side room,‭ ‬it will be Craig who reemerges,‭ ‬and the play will have taken a time shift.‭ ‬Waugh’s performance goes a long way towards making it work.

The same could be said for Simon’s well-modulated direction and the lighting transitions by Dan Gelbmann.
Roger Martin reviewed for Miami ArtZine:
Let me be upfront about this: I didn't much like the script for Dying City... But that's not to say that Mosaic Theatre's production isn't a good one. It is. With good actors, good direction by Richard J. Simon and a great set by Douglas Grinn.
Ricky Waugh is Peter...(he) also plays his twin brother Craig, Kelly's husband, and he handles the transitions well, easily switching from gay actor to warrior in the play's several flashbacks. I must admit, however, that Superman and the phone booth came to mind every time Peter went into the bedroom only to re-emerge as Craig.
There's no doubt Erin Joy Schmidt is a good actress, but she really doesn't have anywhere to go in this piece. Sorrowing widow, aggrieved wife, happiness is a cup of tea and a TV show.
But don't let me put you off. This is a fine production of a difficult work.
Brandon K. Thorp reviewed for the Broward/Palm Beach New Times:
Be advised, dear reader: On opening night, Mosaic Theatre's Dying City was so gripping that this reviewer forgot to take a single note. Therefore, anything I say about the show is reconstructed from memory and from conversations with other people who were there.'s not an easy play to see or think about, and my impressions are all over the place. I suggest you see it for yourself.
Christine Dolen reviewed for The Miami Herald:
Christopher Shinn's Dying City is a play full of shifting perspectives, both for the characters and for those observing them. Shinn studs his mesmerizing drama with hidden IEDs, plot points that suddenly explode, blowing up your assumptions about a soldier, his widow and his twin. Yet there is nothing improvised about the intricately crafted Dying City.
Director Richard Jay Simon and his two-person, three-character cast expertly keep the pendulum of the play's action swinging back and forth from one long night in 2004, when a Harvard Ph.D. candidate is about resume his life as a soldier in Iraq, to the summer of 2005, when the soldier's twin makes an unwelcome visit to his brother's widow.

The structure is tricky to navigate: As the widowed Kelly, Erin Joy Schmidt must shift from playing a wife on a life-altering night to a woman steeped in traumatized mourning, making that shift over and over.

Ricky Waugh has an even larger challenge, portraying the tough soldier Craig and Craig's gay actor-brother Peter, the latter on both fateful nights. It's easy enough to differentiate the brothers through costume choices, as designer K. Blair Brown does. But Waugh digs much deeper, creating two distinct human beings.
One could quibble about certain moments or choices in both the script and Mosaic's production of Dying City. And yet, when this drama works -- particularly as you watch a marriage implode -- there isn't a whiff of make-believe. Just one brilliantly powerful play.
Dying City plays at Mosaic Theatre through May 9, 2010.

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