Bruce the Blog

On Stage: Kindred Spirits and Spirituality

6adc20215593c45359ae_55902.jpg
Hamish Allan-Headley (right) and Michael Jennings Mahoney in “Shining City” at Hudson Stage. Credits: Rana Faure
6adc20215593c45359ae_55902.jpg

Life is about many things, loss being one of the most constant and certainly the most traumatic. We lose parents, though usually not when we are children. I lost my mother when I was 9 years old. More than a half-century later, I wonder how that has shaped me—or perhaps mis-shaped me—as an adult.

Conor McPherson has got me thinking about that. In his play “Shining City,” now through Oct. 28 at Hudson Stage in Armonk, the celebrated Irish dramatist tells us, through Ian (Hamish Allan-Headley), an improbable priest-turned-therapist, “something that can happen as a child [can] cause us to get stuck as an adult.”

Ian says that to Laurence (Michael Jennings Mahoney), a male prostitute he has solicited in a Dublin park. It turns out Laurence is married with a young son, age 6. He tells Ian that many of his clients are also fathers. The notion that reality often is far removed from what we assume it to be is a theme that courses throughout the play, which also considers deeply how the mind deals with grief, guilt and ghosts. “The mind, it’s mad, isn’t it?” muses one character.

Sign Up for E-News

What Mr. McPherson really is doing is sharing with the audience his—and our—befuddlement about life, both the big picture and the tiny pixels that comprise our ordinary existence, as we search, usually in vain, for the extraordinary.

Before Ian and Laurence hook up, we witness Ian having a cat-and-mouse quarrel with his girlfriend Neasa (Gemma Baird), who recently gave birth to their daughter. He tells her that while he’s committed to “looking after” her and their daughter, he no longer wants to live with her.

Here’s a guy who lurches from church counselor to couch counselor, and from apparent heterosexual to whateversexual. Confused? Yes, he is.

Ian clearly is stuck. After seeing the play, I was intrigued thinking what might have happened in his own—or, namely, in Conor McPherson’s—childhood that renders him so indecisive. It brought to mind these lyrics in Stephen Sondheim’s “Losing My Mind,” from the musical “Follies”: “Sometimes I stand in the middle of the floor, not going left, not going right.”

While Neasa and Laurence represent divergent paths Ian can take sexually and socially—his fork in the road—the piece’s centerpiece is John (Derry Woodhouse).

When we meet John, a new patient of Ian’s, we learn his wife has perished in a freak auto accident, but her apparition is haunting him and their house, which he abandons out of fright. That ghost is his grief incarnate (so to speak). It arguably not only helps John solve his personal puzzle more than Ian helps him, but, as the play ends, we are led to believe Ian himself is about to be treated to some unexpected, ghostly therapy.

Laurence may be there to momentarily service Ian in one way, but, metaphorically, it is John who services Ian in a much more spiritual, meaningful way. On the surface, Ian is John’s therapist. Beneath the surface, it’s John who, in the end, helps Ian see the light (literally, in the form of a lamp John gives to him as a parting gift). The two men clearly are kindred spirits not in name only (i.e., Ian is Gaelic for John), with some stark differences: Ian keeps running away from things, and John keeps running into things.

The entire cast is up to the formidable task of meeting the high standard set by the writer of emotional shading and voluptuous phrasing that easily could ring false when interpreted by lesser actors. They are lucky, too, to be directed by the estimable Dan Foster, who brings a steady and savvy hand to all his work.

As is always the case with Hudson Stage Company shows—executive produced by Mr. Foster, Denise Bessette and Olivia Sklar—the set design is smart and sophisticated. I appreciated the skyline view we had through a window, with lighting effects that reflected time of day and to season, with snowflakes aflutter.

One of the fascinations of “Shining City” and of the playwright’s abundant verbal gifts is the language embodied in Ian and John. The former is mostly reticent, with little to say, while the latter speaks volubly in the idiom of the streets of Dublin, as he regales Ian with picturesque stories about his battles with—and doubts about—reality.

Mr. McPherson’s voice throughout “Shining City” is entrancing and evocative, both in theme and cadence. As if underscoring the inarticulateness of everyday existence, the writer has both Ian and John speaking in wholly incomplete sentences, punctuated often as not at the end of them by the ubiquitous “you know.” It’s as if Conor McPherson is telling us that what isn’t said can be as fraught with meaning as what is said.

Whatever he is telling us, this is a remarkable theater craftsman well worth listening to.

Tickets for “Shining City” at Hudson Stage are available through Brown Paper Tickets at 800-838-3006.

Bruce Apar of APAR PR provides “Publicity with Personality” for local businesses, organizations, and events. He also is an actor, a community volunteer, and a contributor to several periodicals. Follow him as Bruce the Blog on social media. Reach him at bruce@aparpr.co or 914-275-6887.

The opinions expressed herein are the writer's alone, and do not reflect the opinions of TAPinto.net or anyone who works for TAPinto.net. TAPinto.net is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information supplied by the writer.

TAP Into Another Town's News:

You May Also Be Interested In

Sign Up for E-News

Yorktown

Are We Protecting Our Environment?

January 17, 2018

When a developer tells us that his or her plans will not cause any negative environmental impacts, should the town automatically accept their statement? Or, should the town review the developer’s statement to make sure that the town’s interests, and the interests of its residents, are protected?

If the answer to this question seems obvious, then Yorktown has a problem. A serious ...

Cigarettes, Drugs and Border Patrol

This is from the website Rare: “Seattle has decided to impose a 1.75 cent per ounce tax on all sugary beverages within the city with the hopes of raising a $15 million revenue stream that it will use for programs to help people ‘have better access to fresh fruits and vegetables,’ as Seattle station KIRO 7 explains. The price of Gatorade Frost Variety Pack at Costco, usually ...

Facing My Mortality

I couldn’t have been more than 5 years old when my parents took me to visit my third cousin, Anthony. On the way to the house, I had some concerns because my parents told me that Anthony was “very sick.” When we arrived, I was startled to see his shaved head. I just wasn’t sure how to act. He quickly put me at ease with his gregarious personality and friendly nature. He ...

Talkin' 'Bout Our Generations

People try to put us d-down (Talkin’ ’bout my generation)

Just because we get around (Talkin’ ’bout my generation)

Things they do look awful c-c-cold (Talkin’ ’bout my generation)

I hope I die before I get old (Talkin’ ’bout my generation)

—Peter Townshend (The Who)

I’ve become obsessed of late with generations. Well, what ...

A Post-Apocalyptic House Cleaning

I’m usually pretty good about keeping track of what’s in my fridge. But over the course of a few weeks, the food containers seem to multiply and take over. By the time I get around to realizing that some items have been in there too long, the contents of the containers way in the back of the refrigerator either look like a science experiment gone awry or a refrigerated toupee.

This ...

Strategies for Test-Taking

Dear Dr. Linda,

Jenny, our smart, wonderful 10th grader, is in a state of panic because of her midterms. Last year, she did horribly on them and then she did just as poorly on her Regents and other finals. She did great in elementary school and middle school. She even does well in all her classes in high school, but scored in the 70s on last year’s midterms and finals.

The sad fact is ...

Demolishing Murphy's Is a Mistake

January 11, 2018

To the editor,

It is a shame that the rustic and pleasant Murphy’s Restaurant will be demolished, along with the handsome trees and shrubs that make outdoor dining in the garden a joy from May to October.

The replacement, a brick office building surrounded with blacktop, will be both less attractive and less kind to the environment, since blacktop creates heat and the trees that now ...

Upcoming Events

Wed, January 24, 6:00 PM

John C. Hart Memorial Library, Shrub Oak

Yorktown Poetry Workshop

Arts & Entertainment

Thu, January 25, 1:00 PM

United Methodist Church, Shrub Oak

IBM Retirees Club

Community Calendar

Sat, January 27, 9:00 AM

Church of the Good Shepherd, Granite Springs

Vision Workshop

Religions And Spirituality

Lagonia Joins Justin Veatch Fund Board

January 11, 2018

The Justin Veatch Fund is proud to announce that Yorktown attorney Sal Lagonia will be joining its board of directors. Lagonia, who was re-elected to a third term as Yorktown justice in November, has a keen interest in working with teens and has served on the board of directors of Student Assistance Services Inc., the Westchester County Youth Board and chaired the Yorktown Recreation ...