In 2007, Lincoln Center produced its first Christopher Shinn play. A modest, two-actor peek at how the Iraq War was affecting the lives of white, upper-middle-class New Yorkers—the subscriber base there was dying to know—the play’s tasteful yuppie condo stood on a massive, slowly crawling turntable, allowing the audience to observe the drama from every angle.
Dying City’s mopey young widow copes with a surprise visit from her dead military husband’s twin brother, who needs to shake off an ugly incident at work. (A professional stage actor, he walked out of a play midperformance because the lead actor made a homophobic slur under his breath.) Spliced with flashback sequences in which the pre-dead officer twin, played by the same actor, frets about his life, the rotating domestic squabbles resembled Northlight Theatre’s similarly turntable-set production of Craig Wright’s Grace a few years back. But whereas the evangelical Christians in Grace spun into a dramatic frenzy as we watched them make a series of fatal errors, the characters in Lincoln Center’s Dying City simply talked and talked until they spun into butter.
By contrast, Loewith’s sensible Chicago premiere is both sober and (fortunately for the easily seasick) stationary. Wiesner and Goss are given full security clearance to tear into their respective roles and Shinn’s giga-natural dialogue. Of Chicago’s complicated actors, Wiesner’s among the easiest to watch, even when her characters are suffering male fools; Goss meticulously splits City’s twins, both experiencing crises of masculinity, into individuals without severing the tie that binds them. (If the queer brother seems a little hopped up, it may be because he’s also the play’s most facile role.)
As he’s written larger, less self-examining ensemble pieces prior to this, it’s hardly the fault of Shinn, one of Gen X’s shining, singular stage voices, that he found his biggest success to date with this drama that dramatizes almost nothing. At least Next Theatre, a staunch advocate of such voices, holds the play still long enough for us to notice.