4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs

Dead air reigns in The Shining City

Ian, a therapist, would benefit from a few decades on the couch.
Ian, a therapist, would benefit from a few decades on the couch.

The Shining City

Conor McPherson’s The Shining City takes some amazing theatrical risks. No, wait, make that anti-theatrical. Imagine the exact opposite of a blockbuster movie: frantic cuts, pulse-drubbing pace, blaring sounds that belt you daffy.

Shining City is 98 (almost hushed) minutes long, no intermission. For most of the time, two people sit in chairs and talk. The stage picture’s relentlessly static. Often the dialogue edges beyond where words can go. Sentences trail off, as the speaker draws a blank. And when the talk ceases, dead air reigns, and look out below!

Monologues dominate the five scenes. And a risk I don’t recall seeing before: the one in scene three must run 20 minutes.

In effect, McPherson reverts back to the most ancient of dramatic forms: sheer storytelling. Only in this case, the campfire is a new therapist’s office, in Dublin, Ireland. The tellers are the counselor, his soon-to-be-ex-lover, a guilt-drenched widower, and the ghosts that won’t go away.

McPherson laces his works with the paranormal. In The Veil, when she plays the piano, young Hannah hears someone “singing. Or crying. I forget which.” In The Seafarer, three men play poker; one might be Mephistopheles. In The Weir, men in a pub tell ghost stories. The playwright doesn’t opt for or against the existence of ghosts. He’s more concerned with what people make of them.

You could subtitle Shining City “therapist, heal thyself,” since Ian would benefit from a few decades on the couch. An ex-priest, his signature expression is “sort things out”: ordering his almost barren office (up four flights of stairs in an otherwise empty building); his collapsing relationship with Neasa (and their daughter); his sexuality; and — the playwright suggests — his soul.

The characters have been cut off from the cultural explanations that keep the demons at bay. Ian left the church and now is in transition from one official set of answers to another. So is Ian’s first patient, John. His wife died in a horrible car crash. That it was sudden sent John spinning. That he’d been unfaithful made him wobble. That her ghost haunts their house — and accuses him of the accident? — knocked him flat. He moved out and lives in a B&B. Every time John hears the sound of an ice cream van, he senses, and often sees, her ghost, wearing the flaming-red coat he gave her to assuage his guilt.

Ion Theatre’s production begins with a version of the Rolling Stones’ “Wild Horses” (about which Sam Shepard once said, but didn’t say why, he needed courage to hear that song). The first line of the chorus is, “Wild horses couldn’t drag me away.” But McPherson’s characters haven’t been dragged, they’ve fallen away. Shining City is about lapses: of faith (Ian), of commitment (Ian, John, and Neasa), of socially acceptable behavior. They fell from standards they either couldn’t meet or didn’t care to.

Claudio Raygoza’s set underlines this in-between-ness. When the play begins, Ian is still moving into his office: whitewashed brick walls, almost empty bookcase, uncluttered desk. Outside the picture window, backdrop artist Ron Logan painted a Dublin panorama. The most prominent feature, the tall spire of a church, could be yet another ghost.

Shining City’s the kind of play critics shouldn’t say too much about. Just when you think you have a character figured out, McPherson turns your certainty into the uncertainty of Ian, John, Neasa, and Laurence (about whom a review should leave alone, except to say that Zack Bonin plays him convincingly and that Laurence’s alienation corroborates the others’).

Jessica John, who designed the excellent, tweedy costumes, is one of San Diego’s most versatile actors. As scorned Neasa, she gets to cut loose. In a sense, her irate, hair-on-fire encounter with ex-lover Ian would be a red letter, bang down the walls, breakthrough therapy session — if she were a paying client. After she unloads, it appears that at least one exorcism is successful. Maybe not.

As Ian (John’s real-life husband), Francis Gercke does quality work as an essentially passive being. Who is this guy? Does even he know? Ian’s motives may be unfathomable. Gercke suggests them with subtle tics and twitches — and sets them far enough apart so that they offer no easy answers.

Claudio Raygoza coached the dialects, and the Irish accents ring true. He also plays John, in whom guilt inflates like a balloon. In scene three, Raygoza does the extended monologue. It’s a tour de force and, for good measure, he kicks up at the end. Brilliant work!

One question Raygoza raises eloquently: has John’s therapy popped his balloon or just let some air out for a while? Has the “talking cure,” like a church confession, evicted his ghost? And has Ian, apparently learning from John’s process, banished his? In only two months?

The Shining City, by Conor McPherson
Ion Theatre, 3704 Sixth Avenue, Hillcrest
Directed by Glenn Paris, cast: Zack Bonin, Francis Gercke, Jessica John, Claudio Raygoza; scenic design, Raygoza; costumes, Jessica John; lighting, Karin Filijan; sound, James Dirks
Playing through September 28: Thursday through Saturday at 8:00 p.m. Matinee Saturday at 4:00 p.m.

Here's something you might be interested in.
Submit a free classified
or view all

Previous article

Originally known as We Are Going To Be Awesome

Delta Spirit, Mystery Machine, Quor, Travis Barker, Corduroy Institute
Next Article

Pegah’s Kitchen: a blast from the past in Escondido

“People have shown us what they want, and they’re the ones who count.”
Ian, a therapist, would benefit from a few decades on the couch.
Ian, a therapist, would benefit from a few decades on the couch.

The Shining City

Conor McPherson’s The Shining City takes some amazing theatrical risks. No, wait, make that anti-theatrical. Imagine the exact opposite of a blockbuster movie: frantic cuts, pulse-drubbing pace, blaring sounds that belt you daffy.

Shining City is 98 (almost hushed) minutes long, no intermission. For most of the time, two people sit in chairs and talk. The stage picture’s relentlessly static. Often the dialogue edges beyond where words can go. Sentences trail off, as the speaker draws a blank. And when the talk ceases, dead air reigns, and look out below!

Monologues dominate the five scenes. And a risk I don’t recall seeing before: the one in scene three must run 20 minutes.

In effect, McPherson reverts back to the most ancient of dramatic forms: sheer storytelling. Only in this case, the campfire is a new therapist’s office, in Dublin, Ireland. The tellers are the counselor, his soon-to-be-ex-lover, a guilt-drenched widower, and the ghosts that won’t go away.

McPherson laces his works with the paranormal. In The Veil, when she plays the piano, young Hannah hears someone “singing. Or crying. I forget which.” In The Seafarer, three men play poker; one might be Mephistopheles. In The Weir, men in a pub tell ghost stories. The playwright doesn’t opt for or against the existence of ghosts. He’s more concerned with what people make of them.

You could subtitle Shining City “therapist, heal thyself,” since Ian would benefit from a few decades on the couch. An ex-priest, his signature expression is “sort things out”: ordering his almost barren office (up four flights of stairs in an otherwise empty building); his collapsing relationship with Neasa (and their daughter); his sexuality; and — the playwright suggests — his soul.

The characters have been cut off from the cultural explanations that keep the demons at bay. Ian left the church and now is in transition from one official set of answers to another. So is Ian’s first patient, John. His wife died in a horrible car crash. That it was sudden sent John spinning. That he’d been unfaithful made him wobble. That her ghost haunts their house — and accuses him of the accident? — knocked him flat. He moved out and lives in a B&B. Every time John hears the sound of an ice cream van, he senses, and often sees, her ghost, wearing the flaming-red coat he gave her to assuage his guilt.

Ion Theatre’s production begins with a version of the Rolling Stones’ “Wild Horses” (about which Sam Shepard once said, but didn’t say why, he needed courage to hear that song). The first line of the chorus is, “Wild horses couldn’t drag me away.” But McPherson’s characters haven’t been dragged, they’ve fallen away. Shining City is about lapses: of faith (Ian), of commitment (Ian, John, and Neasa), of socially acceptable behavior. They fell from standards they either couldn’t meet or didn’t care to.

Claudio Raygoza’s set underlines this in-between-ness. When the play begins, Ian is still moving into his office: whitewashed brick walls, almost empty bookcase, uncluttered desk. Outside the picture window, backdrop artist Ron Logan painted a Dublin panorama. The most prominent feature, the tall spire of a church, could be yet another ghost.

Shining City’s the kind of play critics shouldn’t say too much about. Just when you think you have a character figured out, McPherson turns your certainty into the uncertainty of Ian, John, Neasa, and Laurence (about whom a review should leave alone, except to say that Zack Bonin plays him convincingly and that Laurence’s alienation corroborates the others’).

Jessica John, who designed the excellent, tweedy costumes, is one of San Diego’s most versatile actors. As scorned Neasa, she gets to cut loose. In a sense, her irate, hair-on-fire encounter with ex-lover Ian would be a red letter, bang down the walls, breakthrough therapy session — if she were a paying client. After she unloads, it appears that at least one exorcism is successful. Maybe not.

As Ian (John’s real-life husband), Francis Gercke does quality work as an essentially passive being. Who is this guy? Does even he know? Ian’s motives may be unfathomable. Gercke suggests them with subtle tics and twitches — and sets them far enough apart so that they offer no easy answers.

Claudio Raygoza coached the dialects, and the Irish accents ring true. He also plays John, in whom guilt inflates like a balloon. In scene three, Raygoza does the extended monologue. It’s a tour de force and, for good measure, he kicks up at the end. Brilliant work!

One question Raygoza raises eloquently: has John’s therapy popped his balloon or just let some air out for a while? Has the “talking cure,” like a church confession, evicted his ghost? And has Ian, apparently learning from John’s process, banished his? In only two months?

The Shining City, by Conor McPherson
Ion Theatre, 3704 Sixth Avenue, Hillcrest
Directed by Glenn Paris, cast: Zack Bonin, Francis Gercke, Jessica John, Claudio Raygoza; scenic design, Raygoza; costumes, Jessica John; lighting, Karin Filijan; sound, James Dirks
Playing through September 28: Thursday through Saturday at 8:00 p.m. Matinee Saturday at 4:00 p.m.

Sponsored
Here's something you might be interested in.
Submit a free classified
or view all
Previous article

Waffle Spot still busy after all these years

Two out of three waffles impressed the kids
Next Article

Oceanside gets even more serious about street people

City turning toward Bread of Life to run 50-bed home
Comments
1

I need to see/read this play! storytelling -- yay!

Sept. 18, 2013

Sign in to comment

Sign in

Art Reviews — W.S. Di Piero's eye on exhibits Ask a Hipster — Advice you didn't know you needed Best Buys — San Diego shopping Big Screen — Movie commentary Blurt — Music's inside track Booze News — San Diego spirits City Lights — News and politics Classical Music — Immortal beauty Classifieds — Free and easy Cover Stories — Front-page features Excerpts — Literary and spiritual excerpts Famous Former Neighbors — Next-door celebs Feast! — Food & drink reviews Feature Stories — Local news & stories From the Archives — Spotlight on the past Golden Dreams — Talk of the town Here's the Deal — Chad Deal's watering holes Just Announced — The scoop on shows Letters — Our inbox [email protected] — Local movie buffs share favorites Movie Reviews — Our critics' picks and pans Musician Interviews — Up close with local artists Neighborhood News from Stringers — Hyperlocal news News Ticker — News & politics Obermeyer — San Diego politics illustrated Of Note — Concert picks Out & About — What's Happening Overheard in San Diego — Eavesdropping illustrated Poetry — The old and the new Pour Over — Grab a cup Reader Travel — Travel section built by travelers Reading — The hunt for intellectuals Roam-O-Rama — SoCal's best hiking/biking trails San Diego Beer — Inside San Diego suds SD on the QT — Almost factual news Drinks All Around — Bartenders' drink recipes Sheep and Goats — Places of worship Special Issues — The best of Sports — Athletics without gush Street Style — San Diego streets have style Suit Up — Fashion tips for dudes Theater Reviews — Local productions Theater antireviews — Narrow your search Tin Fork — Silver spoon alternative Under the Radar — Matt Potter's undercover work Unforgettable — Long-ago San Diego Unreal Estate — San Diego's priciest pads Waterfront — All things ocean Your Week — Daily event picks
4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs
Close