“Shining City” at STC

Stephen Cooper (left) as a haunted widower and Joseph O’Meara as a neophyte therapist in Conor McPherson’s stunning ghost story, Shining City, playing now through February 16 at Salem Theater Company.

I know you know, an Irish play about a therapist and his patient’s haunting is pretty standard fare for the Salem Theatre Company: urbane, edgy with a touch of the supernatural.

At its premiere in 2004, “Shining City” prompted the London Telegraph to describe its playwright Conor McPherson, as the “the finest dramatist of his generation” and in the STC’s production on stage through Feb. 16 it’s not hard to see why.

McPherson uses the confession of John (played by the ever capable Stephen Cooper) to propel the story of Ian, his therapist (played by the deceptively quiet Joseph O’Meara), into some of the darker spaces in which we make choices about who we are and what we want.

Perched on Ian’s couch in the Dublin aerie into which the STC’s black box has been transformed, John soliloquizes epically on his marital, sexual, and social shortcomings as Ian supports, prods, and then mirrors John’s story.

It’s all done with an Irish accent which is mercifully passable enough across the board that after the show we can talk about more important things.  Like: is the play more about John who talks a lot about his loss or Stephen who is in the process of recreating himself?  Must we discount our experience if its reality is dubious?  Why is sex so powerful?

John’s not the only person to climb the interminable stairs to Ian’s office and change his life.  In these alternate scenes with alternative characters, the air crackles with the unbelievable unravelling of reality.  Is it true?  What happens next?

You know?

Connor McPherson’s “Shining City”
directed by John Fogle
Jan 24 – Feb 16
$25 / $20 / $10
Tickets at salemtheatre.com

Follow Jonathan Simcosky’s blog at jonathansimcosky.com.

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