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Off Broadway

Second Stage’s Dying City Needs Some Resuscitation

Second Stage’s Dying City Needs Some Resuscitation

The creative juices of playwright constructs are molded together in the dynamic and thought-provoking play Dying City by Christopher Shinn (Where Do We Live) at Second Stage’s Tony Kiser Theater. The fascinating human fallout of global attacks and wars find their way in to this exploration, inventively tearing apart relationships, politics, and idealism within a strong balancing act of structuring and purposefulness. As directed with a somewhat myopic hand by the playwright himself, Shinn never really finds the personification of his compelling ideas nor the where for all to tease them out in this short one act play. The movements and impulses seem more dictated by text and notes rather than humanistic interactions, which is a shame, as the idea give an environment and an exercise that is both challenging and unforgettable in style and construct.


Mary Elizabeth Winstead, best known for her role as Nikki Swango on FX’s “Fargo” struggles within this Dying City. She’s at the center of this dynamic with both brothers, seemingly more lost then her grieving and upset character deserves to be. She wanders a bit without purpose around the expansive set, never really finding the essence of Kelly, the widow/wife, that would draw us in to her frustration and sadness. Colin Woodell (Geffen Playhouse’s Long Day’s Journey…) gives a strong dual personification of twin brothers, Craig, the soldier, and Peter, the actor, who couldn’t be more different. Studies generally show that identical twins share the same sexual orientation, but I’m going to set that aside and just believe that these twins are sexually as different as the way they attack the world.  Woodell really does create individualistic approaches although I wish his exits and entrances felt organic and not scripted, as the intentions sometimes felt jarring and confusing, rather than purposeful. But the conflict, as written, rings true and deep, although not teased out with intricate authenticity.


The bland and expensive set by Dave Laffrey (RTC’s Apologia), with lighting by Tyler Micoleau (Broadway’s The Band’s Visit), dynamic sound design by Bray Poor (RTC’s True West), and solid and smart costuming by Kaye Voyce (NYTW’s Hurricane Diane), doesn’t help pull us into the thoughtfully written structure of dyadic conversations. It leaves a black hole in the background and at the heart of the complexity, where all intimacy gets sucked into and lost. I couldn’t help but wonder as the play unfolds what that infinite black space was created for, but when it finally makes it’s purpose known, it is altogether too brief and meaningless to have distracted us for the whole play.  It feels in somewhat like it is meant to be meaningful and dramatic, but fails to expand the emotional battle going on in front of it. The tightness and the intimacy needed have not made their way into the direction and the purposefulness of this interesting and compelling play.


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Off Broadway

My love for theater started when I first got involved in high school plays and children's theatre in London, Ontario, which led me—much to my mother’s chagrin—to study set design, directing, and arts administration at York University in Toronto. But rather than pursuing theater as a career (I did produce and design a wee bit), I became a self-proclaimed theater junkie and life-long supporter. I am not a writer by trade, but I hope to share my views and feelings about this amazing experience we are so lucky to be able to see here in NYC, and in my many trips to London, Enlgand, Chicago, Toronto, Washington, and beyond. Living in London, England from 1985 to 1986, NYC since 1994, and on my numerous theatrical obsessive trips to England, I've seen as much theater as I can possibly afford. I love seeing plays. I love seeing musicals. If I had to choose between a song or a dance, I'd always pick the song. Dance—especially ballet—is pretty and all, but it doesn’t excite me as, say, Sondheim lyrics. But that being said, the dancing in West Side Story is incredible! As it seems you all love a good list, here's two. FAVORITE MUSICALS (in no particular order): Sweeney Todd with Patti Lupone and Michael Cerveris in 2005. By far, my most favorite theatrical experience to date. Sunday in the Park with George with Jenna Russell (who made me sob hysterically each and every one of the three times I saw that production in England and here in NYC) in 2008 Spring Awakening with Jonathan Groff and Lea Michele in 2007 Hedwig and the Angry Inch (both off-Boadway in 1998 and on Broadway in 2014, with Neal Patrick Harris, but also with Michael C. Hall and John Cameron Mitchell, my first Hedwig and my far), Next To Normal with Alice Ripley (who I wish I had seen in Side Show) in 2009 FAVORITE PLAYS (that’s more difficult—there have been so many and they are all so different): Angels in American, both on Broadway and off Lettice and Lovage with Dame Maggie Smith and Margaret Tyzack in 1987 Who's Afraid of Virginai Woolf with Tracy Letts and Amy Morton in 2012 Almost everything by Alan Ayckbourn, but especially Woman in Mind with Julia McKenzie in 1986 And to round out the five, maybe Proof with Mary Louise Parker in 2000. But ask me on a different day, and I might give you a different list. These are only ten theatre moments that I will remember for years to come, until I don’t have a memory anymore. There are many more that I didn't or couldn't remember, and I hope a tremendous number more to come. Thanks for reading. And remember: read, like, share, retweet, enjoy. For more go to

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