Review: ‘Shining City’ at The Irish Rep Theatre in NYC

It’s been only 10 years since Conor McPherson’s word fest of a play ran at the Biltmore Theatre for 101 performance including 21 previews. It was well received not only for the eloquence of the writing, but for the sterling performances of Oliver Platt, Martha Plimpton, Brian F. O’Byrne, and Peter Scanavino. It had come to us following a run at the Royal Court Theatre and the Dublin Gate in Ireland. It now returns in a splendid revival by the Irish Repertory Theatre on West 22nd Street in that distinguished company’s completely renovated theatre that is as sparkling as this new version of the play, directed this time out by Ciarán O’Reilly, who has staged it cleanly, allowing its small cast of four to offer its many monologues front and center.

Matthew Broderick (John) and Billy Carter (Ian). Photo by Carol Rosegg.
Matthew Broderick (John) and Billy Carter (Ian). Photo by Carol Rosegg.

It begins quietly in a Dublin office, recently established by Ian, a man who abandoned his priesthood for the role of therapist, and his first patient is John, played by Matthew Broderick. John is in terrible condition, though outwardly he is casually and properly dressed, seemingly in control, but as he begins to talk, we realize he needs help badly. His wife was suddenly killed in a car wreck only weeks before and he has been unable to sleep, haunted by images of his wife’s ghost, which he is convinced are real; not dreams but actual encounters.

There are moments when the thought occurred to me that his ramblings would never end, but I soon buried them as I became totally caught up in them. Mr. Broderick’s performance is mesmerizing. He appears in two of the play’s four scenes (played together in an uninterrupted 90 minutes) and we listen to his sad tale, played with a beautifully authentic Dublin accent, leading to a crescendo of rage that releases him from his recent outings as an aging Ferris Buehler.

Ian, the therapist, does little but listen, but Billy Carter brings presence and nuance to his character and we wish to know about him as well.

Billy Carter (Ian) and Lisa Dwan (Neasa). Photo by Carol Rosegg.
Billy Carter (Ian) and Lisa Dwan (Neasa). Photo by Carol Rosegg.

In the second scene, we meet the woman Neasa, with whom he’s had a baby, and as played by Lisa Dwan, she is a physically attractive woman who manages to convince us by the time she is through venting at how she’s been abused by him, that she is not to blame —  Ian has problems of his own with which he’s never dealt. Mr. McPherson has an uncanny way with words. Never losing the rhythms or the lilt of the Irish tongue, he fills these speeches with revealing insight into his characters. In the third scene, we meet Laurence, a derelict pickup who’s had more than his share of bad luck, through whom we learn more of Ian’s conflict with himself. The surprise ending to the play brings this highly original work to a smashing conclusion.

Charlie Corcoran’s office set design, fragile and tentative, is the perfect room  in which this masterful character study unravels itself. The lighting by Michael Gottlieb brings proper glow to all that happens here.

All four actors fill it with life, turning broken people into human beings for whom we have great empathy. As with the best of Eugene O’Neill’s work, the total effect of the language and the seemingly limpid pace, causes us ultimately to feel connected to these people, and we are genuinely moved by them all.

Artistic Director Charlotte Moore and Producing Director Ciarán O’Reilly have given New York another gem.

Running Time: Approximately 90 minutes, with no intermission.

Shining City plays through July 3, 2016 at Irish Rep Theatre – 132 West 22nd Street, in New York City. For tickets, call the box office at  (212) 727-2737, or purchase them online.

Previous article‘Very Well-Connected’: Meet Cast Members of Montgomery College Summer Dinner Theatre’s ‘Side Show’: Part 2: Jehan Silva
Next articleOCCUPY EAST STREET: Frederick’s East Street Arts Center is now Open!
Richard Seff
RICHARD SEFF has been working in theatre since he made his acting debut in support of Claude Rains in the prize winning DARKNESS AT NOON, and he agreed to tour the next season in support of Edward G. Robinson, which took him across the nation and back for nine months. When it was over and he was immediately offered another national tour with THE SHRIKE with Van Heflin, he decided to explore other areas, and he spent the next 22 years representing artists in the theatre as an agent, where he worked at Liebling-Wood, MCA, eventually a partnership of his own called Hesseltine-Bookman and Seff, where he discovered and developed young talents like Chita Rivera, John Kander, Fred Ebb, Ron Field, Linda Lavin, Nancy Dussault and many others. He ultimately sold his interest to ICM. When he completed his contractual obligation to that international agency, he returned to his first love, acting and writing for the theatre. In that phase of his long and varied life, he wrote a comedy (PARIS IS OUT!) which brightened the 1970 season on Broadway for 107 performances. He became a successful supporting player in film, tv and onstage, and ultimately wrote a book about his journey, SUPPORTING PLAYER: MY LIFE UPON THE WICKED STAGE, still popular with older theatre lovers and youngsters who may not yet know exactly where they will most sensibly and profitably fit into the world of show business. The book chronicles a life of joyous work working in a favored profession in many areas, including leading roles in the regional theatres in his work in Lanford Wilson's ANGELS FALL. His last stage role was in THE COUNTESS in which he played Mr. Ruskin for 9 months off Broadway. Five seasons ago Joel Markowitz suggested he join him at DCTheatreScene. His accurate and readable reviews of the New York Scene led, when the time was right, for his joining DCMetroTheaterArts to continue bringing news of the Big Apple's productions just to keep you posted. He is delighted to be able to join DCMTA and work with Joel and hopes that you like what he has to say.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here