Monday, October 29, 2012

Dying City at Signature Theatre in Arlington, Virginia

A soldier volunteers to serve in the War on Terror shortly after the 9/11 attacks.  He dies under mysterious circumstances leaving behind a widow and a twin brother both of whom struggle to come to terms with their loss.   One year later, the brother unexpectedly shows up at the widow's apartment.   Memories surface and emotions that lie buried are forced to surface with neither party finding a satisfactory catharsis.

Signature Theatre presents an intimate drama that shows the trauma of unexpected loss.    Yet, while Dying City shows us the effects of death in wartime upon the two closest relations to the deceased, these two characters show us in vastly different ways how this death has effected them.  This is a briskly paced three character play that last just over an hour.   Yet, within that hour this taut character study reveals a great deal.  

While this is a three character play it is acted by two individuals.  Thomas Keegan portrays both of the identical twin brothers, Peter and Craig.  These natural leads to a device in which excuses must be made for one brother to exit the stage and reappear as the other.   This could become tiresome, yet because the playwright wisely chose not to have every exit lead to a character change, it simply becomes a narrative device that is quickly accepted by the audience.   Mr. Keegan creates two very different brothers,Craig is revealed in flashbacks on the final night before his deployment as a man with a cruel streak, yet in his emails to his brother far more eloquent than he was in life to his wife.  Peter, the surviving twin is absorbed in his own grieving, so focused on his craving to reach out to the one other person he assumes is suffering the loss as much as he is that he cannot see the trauma his unexpected and unwelcome visit is causing.

Rachel Zampelli portrays the widowed Kelly as a woman who guards her true emotions. A therapist by trade, she is cautious and wary with Peter.  Yet, as the evening wears on and she is forced to relive the devastation that her late husband's deployment had on her and her marriage, she peels away her emotional layers.  

All three characters behave in a passive agressive manner when it comes to revealing their true emotional core and by the end of this emotive evening of theater the revelation of those feelings will leave you with more questions than the play can answer in its brief one-hour running time.

Dying City by Christopher Shinn is being performed in The Ark Theatre at Signature Theatre in Arlington, Virginia through November 25, 2012.   For tickets and other performance information please visit

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