Matthew Broderick and Billy Carter in SHINING CITY at Irish Rep. Photo by Carol Rosegg



By Sandi Durell



The Irish Repertory’s newly renovated theater on West 22nd Street offers up Conor McPherson’s haunting revival of lives that move and touch but are ultimately solitary and filled with sadness in their existential need for bonding.


Directed by the insightful Ciarán O’Reilly, this two time Tony Award nominated revival is a ghost story that takes place in Dublin, in the drab office of a former priest who has lost faith, now turned therapist, Ian (Billy Carter). John (Matthew Broderick) is a retired businessman whose wife Mari recently died in a car accident and has sought out help from Ian. John’s discomfort is continually evident as he seeks an explanation for Mari’s ghost that plagues him in his house, causing him to move out and live in a nearby bed and breakfast. The unrelenting sea of words that tumble forth as monologues of isolation, are his catharsis; a communication that was lacking throughout his marriage to Mari which was really non-existent. He is content that someone is listening and occasionally responding – “OK” “Mmmm” “Right” – giving him pause to go further.

Billy Carter and Lisa Dwan in SHINING CITY at Irish Rep. Photo by Carol Rosegg

John speaks of the uneasiness he feels in social circumstances when the conversations are about children, as he and Mari had none, or the thrill of an almost sexual encounter when he meets a society lady at a party who listened when he spoke about his sinus problems, as they continued their relationship thru texting that never climaxed in reality. Or his trip to a brothel where he is beaten up and yet feels all right with the outcome.

Billy Carter and James Russell in SHINING CITY at Irish Rep.Photo by Carol Rosegg (2)

But it is not only John, it is Ian who is also disconnected, living in his office, angrily telling his girlfriend Neasa (Lisa Dwan), with whom he has fathered a child (she living in his brother’s home where no one speaks to her), that he no longer wants to be with her. She, raging and admitting to a one-time affair because she had no one to talk to. And there’s the out of work young man Laurence (James Russell) hard up for money, and available for a homosexual encounter with Ian.  When asked by Laurence what he does, Ian says he helps people who might be a little bit stuck . . . those needing help with reality!  Really?  How ironic! Who is helping whom?


Each of these characters find their individual paths to coupling and some connection, but are never fulfilled because it isn’t sex they are seeking. It’s human bonding, and how to rid themselves of the extreme loneliness that pervades their daily lives, exquisitely revealed in their long individual monologues.


Amidst the sadness, there is a natural ironic humor in the telling and Conor McPherson tells it so well.


Some might find this play somewhat repetitive and talkie but it touches the very core of human existence with outstanding performances by a committed cast well situated in the dreary setting by Charlie Corcoran.


Shining City runs 100 minutes (no intermission) – Irish Rep, 132 West 22 Street, thru July 3

212 727-2737

Photos: Carol Rosegg