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A CurtainUp Berkshire Review
Shining City
Additional Comments by Elyse Sommer
Thank God! You know? There's someone in the world who actually cares about how I'm getting on, you know? — John
Shining city

Mark H. Dold(
If you missed Conor McPherson's stunning Shining City when it ran in New York this is your chance to see a first-rate production at Barrington Stage Company's St. Germain Stage. Tautly directed by Christopher Innvar, this examination of human isolation and despair hums along at ninety-minutes-plus and in a mere five scenes draws the audience into this extraordinary investigation of guilt, despair and redemption.

With a flair for Celtic narrative at its best McPherson's ear for lyrical and truly human speech patterns creates a seamless night of theater as the audience settles into their seats with the rapt attention afforded a camp fire tale. John (Wilbur Edwin Henry) shows up at a therapist's office seemingly mourning for his dead wife but finally confessing that the real reason he is there is to escape her ghostly presence in their house. John, so unnerved and convinced that she is truly there, moves to a B&B.

Ian (Mark H. Dold) a newly-practicing therapist seems to be the professional that John needs. Yet, as the story unfolds we see that he too is in conflict over his own problems; he has left the priesthood and fathered a child with a woman he claims he does not love.

Ian's struggles with his own imperfections and confusion about his personal life add to the depth of this very humanistic, at times funny, ironic and always compassionate treatment of the human condition.

Questions of God, ghosts and genital matters swirl throughout the production. Ian's fiancee Neasa (Deanna Gibson) and the homeless Laurence (Patrick Ball,) in finely limned supporting roles, add more layers to the complexity of his world.

Even though the crux of the play hinges on John's troubles we see everything through Ian's viewpoint played out in that small claustrophobic office. But it is the dialogue that keeps us glued to their every word. In spite of some long monologues punctuated by "you knows" and other tacit pleas for understanding, we are compelled to hear the details and need to know what is motivating these people.

A ten-minute monologue absorbs us into the very depths of John's soul as he tries to explain to Ian and himself what propelled him into an affair and then a brothel. "You'll be all right, you'll be all right. . .It was so stupid but in a mad way that's what I wanted. I wanted someone t tell me that things were going to be okay." Each character takes turns with dialogue such as this to express profound human needs.

The cast in a brilliant mix of nervous energy, pathos and despair weaves us into their plights. We care; we are absorbed and worried about their outcomes.

Brian Prather's scenic design and lighting by Scott Pinkney create a believable down-trodden Dublin office which lends just the right texture to that murky existentialistic angst which vibrates just below the surface. Costumes by Kristin Sneshkoff and sound by Brad Berridge add the final deft touches to this not-to-be-missed drama.

Additional Comments by Elyse Sommer
I've followed Conor McPherson's career since he first made his mark at age twenty. I've admired the way he's retained his quiet story-telling mode even as his plays have becomue more dressed-up presentations in which in which, instead of one character holding the stage, three or four actors interact. Since Shining City is my favorite McPherson play, and Mark H. Dold one of my favorite Barrington Stage regulars ( Freud's Last Session, Breaking the Code and more ), I wasn't about to miss a chance to revisit it with Dold playing the troubled ex-priest turned therapist. As he did with his brilliant portrait of the British scientist Alan Turing, Dold has once again created a fully nuanced, damaged man.

Wilbur Edwin Henry's intense and often droll John made it easy to overlook that a man used to handling lifes's disappointments with typical male retraint would so quickly open up and even need a tissue.

I couldn't agree more with my trusty colleague Gloria Miller's praises of the other two actors and the work of director Christopher Innvar and his team. I would also add a special bravo for Dialect Coach Wndy Waterman.

Below review links to other McPherson plays reviewed at Curtainup
Dublin Carol
The Good Thief
Night Alive
Port Authority
Rum and Vodka
The Seafarer
This Lime Tree Bower
St. Nicholas
The Veil
Above comments based on July 2nd performance. e.s.
Shining City by Conor McPherson
Directed by Christopher Innvar
Cast: Patrick Ball, Mark H, Dold, Deanna Gibson, Wilbur Edwin Henry
Set Design: Brian Prather
Lighting Design: Scott Pinkney
Costume Design: Kristina Sneshkof
Sound Design: Brad Berridge
Dialect Coach: Wendy Waterman Stage manager: Paul Vella
Run Time: 0ne hour and 40 minutes, no intermission
Barrington Stage Company St. Germain stage 36 Linden St., Pittsfield, MA
Previews 6/18/15; opening 6/21/15; closing 7/11/11
Performances: Tuesday -Saturday at 7:30; Thursdays and Saturdays 4:00 (excluding June 18 and 20) Sunday matinee at 3:00.
Tickets: $40.00; Children 18 and under $15.00 (subject to availability)
Reviewed by Gloria Miller at June 21st performance
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