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

God Is Just! Schneiderman Is Out!

Whenever you doubt that God is just, remember last Monday. That is the day New York state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman resigned.

As you know, I have had him in my sights for a long time. He has squandered our tax dollars with more than 100 lawsuits against the Trump administration. Plus, his lawsuits against Big Oil and trying to nullify our double jeopardy laws. Most will go nowhere as ...

A Scientific Look at Decision-Making

Seven years ago, when I first began sharing my thoughts with you, I posed the question: What are the neurological mechanics of decision-making? I was referring not only to decisions about our actions, but also to the method by which we form our beliefs and preferences, political and otherwise. What inspired that inquiry, at that time, was my observation that our nation was increasingly polarized ...

Bias in Media, in Me, in You

While listening to an interview with a voter on my car radio, I thought I had excess ear wax that obstructed my hearing. The voter (whose name is Bruce) said this about one of the qualifications that a Senate or House candidate must have to earn his vote: “I don’t want anyone with ideas. We have enough of those already.”

I’m a journalist and have been one my entire ...

Cross My Legs and Hope to Die

One morning, I had a big cup of coffee as I usually do, and then I got in the car and drove 40 minutes to a clothing store I had been curious to check out. I don’t normally drive 40 minutes to go shopping, but since I am a stay-at-home mom and everyone knows we stay-at-home moms just spend our time shopping and eating bonbons, I figured, “What the hey.”

Having had the ...

Don’t Mix Politics with Business

May 17, 2018

When every year is an election year, it’s hard to avoid “talking” politics—but business leaders need to try.

The problem is that talking politics changes relationships. You quickly go from business owner or salesperson to Democrat, Republican, etc.

Putting a political sign in front of your business is a clear sign (literally) of your views. Not only do you tell your ...

Upcoming Events

Wed, May 23, 8:00 AM

Mercy College, Yorktown Heights

Business Enterprise and Employment Opportunity ...

Business & Finance

Fri, May 25, 10:30 AM

Yorktown Community Cultural Center, YORKTOWN HEIGHTS

Tai Chi for Women with Cancer

Health & Wellness

Sat, May 26, 12:00 PM

Club Fit, Jefferson Valley

Yoga for Women with Cancer

Health & Wellness

Yorktown Youth Soccer Club Roundup

May 18, 2018

YORKTOWN, N.Y. – Yorktown’s Girls U9 Team, the Hurricanes, defeated the Poughkeepsie Fireflies with a 1-0 win at Hunterbrook Field in Yorktown.

Hurricane’s goalies Cameron Parise and Avery Pugliese shut out the Poughkeepsie offense with several key saves. Yorktown controlled the ball throughout the game with outstanding performances by midfielders Samantha Nastasi, Macey ...