Dying City, now playing at Signature Theatre, is a 60 minute one act play that is an excellent character study of three individuals, which is tackled by two actors. Thomas Keegan plays the duel roles of Peter, an actor, and his twin brother Craig, a army officer who dies under somewhat mysterious circumstances in Iraq. The show takes place over two nights separated more than a year apart. One night is Craig’s last night with his wife Kelly before shipping out. The other night is more than a year later after Craig’s death when Peter arrives unannounced at Kelly’s apartment.
The show begins with Peter arriving unannounced at Kelly’s apartment, portrayed by Rachel Zampelli, who is a therapist. Without stating a word Ms. Zampelli made it clear that she was less than excited to see Peter, before she even opened the door. In fact, much of the angst Kelly was going through during the entire show you could sense through Ms. Zampelli’s excellent performance. The source of her feelings aren’t necessarily what you would think and takes the full show to play out. In fact, Ms. Zampelli’s controlled performance made me want to stand up for Kelly and ask the question she hadn’t, “Peter, what are you doing here?” Peter, conversely showed up at Kelly’s apartment after walking out in the middle of a broadway show he was appearing in search of what can best be described as a therapy session regarding his life, his relationships, and his now deceased brother.
The other portion of the show was flashbacks to Craig’s final night in New York before shipping out, with Peter passed out in the bedroom of the apartment. We get to see the final moments between Craig and Kelly and how those moments are coloring Kelly’s interaction and reception of Peter over a year later. And how Kelly’s pain simply isn’t limited to seeing the face of her now dead husband.
Great credit must go to the performances of Mr. Keegan and Ms. Zampelli. Mr. Keegan played different people and was assisted with off-stage costume changes. However, his performance did not even need these costume changes, because there was no confusion as to who he was portraying, with excellent changes in the cadence and deepness of his voice and his mannerisms. It was easy to tell which brother you were watching, even if he had just changed characters while standing on stage wearing the same outfit. While Ms. Zampelli is portraying a single character, she portrayed countless emotions and aptly switched from one to another in the matter of moments while Mr. Keegan is off-stage. To the credit to both of them it was done seemlessly.
If I were to take any exception with the show it would have more to do with the script than Signature’s production of it. There were sporadic political statements made regarding President Bush, Abu Ghraib, and the war in Iraq throughout the production. In 2006, when the show was first staged in Longon, these political commentaries probably came across much differently than the unneccessary white noise they were today. That being said, the show stands on its own as a snap shot character study of these three individuals and was well worth it.
Next Up: War Horse, November 3 at The Kennedy Center