Playwright Christopher Shinn’s specialty just may be looking at human relations through the lens of large-scale tragedy. In some ways, Dying City is like a follow-up to Where Do We Live, his 9/11 microspection of a Manhattan apartment building. This play centers around a single day in 2004, and a single day in 2005, for Kelly and her husband, and her husband’s identical twin brother.
Highly educated and privileged, Kelly (immensely talented theater newcomer Rebecca Brooksher) is a therapist whose husband, Craig, is also highly educated, yet his family is not. ROTC put Craig through Harvard, and so after September 11th he is shipped off to war. And then in 2004, after being discharged he re-enlists. A number of months later, he is shot on duty during target practice. This is a quietly anti-war play, taking care to bring some voice to a pro-war point of view (though this could have been pushed further), and to letting the audience know that preaching to the converted isn’t enough to incite change.
The scenes take turns between Craig’s last evening before his 2004 ship-out, when his brother and his brother’s boyfriend come over, and a surprise visit in 2005 from Peter, the twin. Kelly is looking to escape her life, to cut off ties, while Peter is looking for a connection, making desperate attempts to stay close with Kelly. Pablo Schrieber plays both brothers, bringing similarities and differences to each, and is an ample stage presence in either role. Though this play is brimming with language, there is also a starkness, a loneliness to these characters and this production. They must, ultimately, go through their personal struggles alone.