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Theater review by Raven Snook
Christopher Shinn’s 2007 drama Dying City compresses huge issues—class and political divides, the nature of truth, the impact of chronic violence—into an intimate three-character power play. Therapist Kelly (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) receives an unexpected visit from Peter (Colin Woodell), the identical twin of her late husband, Craig. An up-and-coming Hollywood actor and motormouth, Peter initially just seems to want to reminisce about his sibling, a Harvard grad who died a year earlier while on military duty in Iraq. As their slippery conversation progresses, it becomes clear that Craig had a very dark side—and that Peter, in his own way, may be as dangerous as his brother was.
Dying City requires a palpable sense of unease from the get-go; the brilliance of Shinn's script is often in what the characters don't say. But although Shinn is a hugely gifted playwright, he is an inexperienced director; the result is a middling production that feels detached from the play’s insightful examination of how trauma can misshape lives. Fargo’s Winstead, in a dispassionate stage debut, barely musters more than a shrug in her tricky passive-reactive role, which leaves Woodell floundering; his Peter is more convincing than his Craig (whom he plays in flashbacks), but both are superficial. Shinn's craft as a writer still shines through, so the audience has plenty to think about. But at its most potent, Dying City should leave you anguished, not analytical.
Second Stage Theater (Off Broadway). Written and directed by Christopher Shinn. With Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Colin Woodell. Running time: 1hr 20mins. No intermission.