Conor McPherson is an Irish writer who is considered one of the finest playwrights being performed today. He came onto the theatrical scene with his hauntingly poetic The Weir, the telling of a ghost story in an Irish pub. Ben Brantley of the New York Times said he felt like a five-year-old child sitting by his grandfather listening raptly to a marvelous story being told. The Weir has been a hit world-over. Another of his plays, The Seafarer, is a far funnier work featuring a bunch of Irish drunks, and had a respectable run recently on Broadway and at the Geffen here in Los Angeles.
The Shining City, a return to the ghost story, was written in 2004. When it played on Broadway it was nominated for two Tony Awards including Best Play. Shining City is now having its Los Angeles premiere at the Fountain Theatre, an award-winning theatre that has garnered more awards than almost any other small house in town. They are known for their premieres, and edgy thoughtful plays including the Los Angeles premieres of several Athol Fugard works.
Shining City is described as a "modern day ghost story about human contact." The play takes place in a therapist's office where secrets are laid bare and truth confronted. Even Ian, the ex-priest now-therapist, has his own inner demons. John (the incomparable Morlan Higgins), haunted by his dead wife's ghost, goes to see the young therapist (William Dennis Hurley) to try to find out why. The therapist is visited by his own girlfriend, the mother of their child, who is nagging him to come home, but he wants it over. We find out later that the good therapist has his own love triangle issues going on. The play is a gripping meditation on regret, guilt, and confusion told through the McPherson's poetical and lyrical lens.
Director Stephen Saks does a masterful job of getting the most out of this beautiful and riveting play. He has some terrific actors to help him achieve that end. Higgins is a study in nerves and guilt tempered by love of his dead wife and a need to break out of the relationship. Hurley and his character's girlfriend (Kerrie Blaisdell) have a smashing scene of domestic wrangling. Benjamin Keepers is very good as the street hustler. The set is by Shaun Motley with lights by Ken Booth and a good sound design by Peter Bayne.
Shining City will play at the Fountain until Dec. 19th with a possible extension.