Plays tend to fall into two general categories: those where the characters change or grow and those where the characters’ past is revealed, allowing us to see why they are as they are. "Dying City" by Christopher Shinn (nominated for a Pulitzer for drama in 2008) falls into the latter category. Set in NYC against the backdrop of 9/11 and the war in Iraq, the play examines the relationship of identical twin brothers -- one a gay actor (Peter), the other a Harvard-educated graduate student (Craig) who has enlisted to fight terrorism -- and Craig's wife, a therapist named Kelly.
The play opens with a quick scene on September 11th, then skips ahead to a few years later: Craig has been killed, and Peter comes to Kelly's apartment for an unexpected visit late one evening. Brandon Walker, aided by the deft direction of Adam Reich who keeps the characters and their props moving in and out of the set inconspicuously, does an excellent job playing both brothers. As portrayed by Walker, these two characters possess distinct mannerisms and stage presence. Well done. While the two brothers may dominate the plot, though, it is Kelly (played by Erin Cronican) who is the real focus of the play. Why is she sitting in an apartment that seems to be prepared for moving? Why is she constantly watching police dramas on TV? Cronican gets the part exactly right; her subtle and nuanced performance perfectly fits the unfolding nature of the piece. A good set and effective integration of TV and phone sounds (high five to the sound engineer!) help keep the audience focused as the plot shifts back and forth in time.
The pay-off for the audience of "Dying City" is discovering by the end what has brought each character to where he is -- kind of like learning the story behind a snapshot. I highly recommend this for those who like less movement and more character study.
At The Seeing Place Theater, through Mar. 9.