Matthew Broderick is fascinating as an Irish widower in therapy who is haunted by his wife’s ghost in this excellent revival of the psychological drama.
Since his youthful career heyday of the 1980’s with major roles on Broadway in Neil Simon plays and starring in the enduring cultural touchstone film Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Mr. Broderick has since continued on in such films as Election and the Broadway smash hit, The Producers. Now 54, he is stockier, his hair is gray and his features are fuller but his charisma and commanding talent remains as does his inimitable grin and twinkling eyes. Considering his indelible past successes, this role is quite challenging and he is winningly up to it.
Much of the part consists of relatively uninterrupted monologues that Broderick terrifically delivers that range from harrowing recollections to a visit to a brothel that is hilarious. His characterization of this drab, depressed and tormented man is very moving and is a joyous case of riveting star/character acting.
A major theme of the play is the contrast between patient and therapist who is actually more troubled then his patient. Not only is Ian a former priest in his 40’s caught up in a disintegrating relationship with his younger girlfriend Neasa who has recently given birth to their daughter, he has other dark qualities that are revealed.
As Ian, Billy Carter’s low-key charm vividly realizes the character. Mr. Carter’s wonderful performance conveys the compartmentalization of a therapeutic professional grappling with a complicated personal life.
Samuel Beckett actress extraordinaire Lisa Dwan offers a blistering and emotionally wrenching portrait of a romantically confused woman as the pub worker Neasa.
With his lean wiry frame and sorrowful eyes, James Russell is engagingly intense in the brief but pivotal role of Laurence, who dramatically intrudes into the plot.
Director Ciarán O’Reilly’s staging skillfully lets the situations play out while modulating the sterling performances.
Scenic designer Charlie Corcoran’s cavernous loft set authentically represents a therapist’s office with a meticulous assemblage of details. Michael Gottlieb’s lighting design expertly enhances the actions. Martha Hally’s realistic costume design depicts the characters with simplicity.
Ryan Rumery’s original music is appropriately pulsating. Sound designer M. Florian Staab’s work expertly veers from eerie to straightforward.
Shining City opened in 2004, at London’s Royal Court Theatre for a six week run. The Manhattan Theatre Club’s Broadway production had a limited engagement of 80 performances in 2006.
Set in contemporary Dublin, Mr. McPherson’s well-crafted and flavorfully Irish play rambles somewhat but is an intriguing blend of the spooky and the perceptively observed mundane. This accomplished revival hasn’t unearthed a neglected masterpiece but does provide for thoughtful entertainment containing marvelous performances.
Shining City (through July 3, 2016)
Irish Repertory Theatre, 132 West 22nd Street, in Manhattan
For tickets, call 212-727-2737 or visit http://www.irishrep.org
Running time: one hour and 40 minutes with no intermission
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