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LA Theater Review

Shining City

Irish writer Conor McPherson has received critical kudos for his earlier play "The Weir," and "Shining City" received a nomination for the Tony Award for best play, but, in this production at least, it's hard to understand why. The piece centers on four situations involving four individuals. Ian (William Dennis Hurley) is an ex-priest, who became a psychotherapist after losing his faith and is also in the throes of breaking up his marriage, despite the presence of a child. Ian has a wrenching confrontation with his anguished wife (Kerrie Blaisdell). He also meets with a patient, John (Morlan Higgins), who is ravaged by grief and guilt over the death of his estranged wife and who twice sees her, or thinks he sees her, in his house, after her death. Ian also brings in a hustler (Benjamin Keepers) for a tentative foray into gay sex.

Each of the situations is interesting and compelling, but they seem disparate and unrelated, linked together only by the presence of Ian. There's a wisp of a plot to suggest a supernatural element, but that seems like a perfunctory shaggy-dog story. There's little action, and what there is happens between scenes. John regains his equilibrium and is getting on with his life—but the process is not examined. Immediately after his encounter with the hustler, Ian decides to reconcile with his wife, abandon his practice, and move to another city. Again, we don't know how or why.

But the flaws in the play can't be blamed on Stephen Sachs' skillful direction or the highly accomplished actors. Hurley creates a convincing portrait of a therapist who's more emotionally blighted than his patients, and Blaisdell convincingly captures the pain and confusion of a woman whose marriage has inexplicably blown up in her face. Higgins, whose long monologue constitutes much of the play, eloquently embodies the tortured man whose absurd, unconsummated affair with another woman destroyed his marriage, and Keepers creates a touching vignette of a man driven to hustling because the accident that destroyed his hand made other employment impossible. Shaun Motley provides the handsome, gothic-flavored set.

Presented by and at the Fountain Theatre, 5060 Fountain Ave., L.A. Sept. 19–Dec. 19. Thu.–Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m. (Dark Thu., Nov. 26.) (323) 663-1525.

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