This Week in Theater
Written by Christopher Shinn
Review by Rose Desena
The Rogue Machine Theater Company is back in all its glory with a stunning production of Christopher Shinn’s Pulitzer nominated play, “Dying City”.
Burt Grinstead gives a brilliant performance as he moves seamlessly between his two characters. He plays twin brothers: Peter and Craig. Peter is a narcissistic victim who not only ruins his life but all the lives he touches, and his twin brother Craig is a self-loathing predator who pulls those close to him into a web of ugliness and hatred.
They are identical twins, who one can only surmise had a difficult home life growing up. The use of identical twins is very amusing; although, both suffer from personality disorders that appear to be different, but suffer in the same hell. There disorders affect all there relationships, Peter is an actor who walks out of a play because he simply can’t cope with criticism. He constantly questions his ability to be loyal and has difficulty dealing with his sexuality. Craig torments all the women in his life whether they are one night stands or someone as close as his wife, taking every opportunity to degrade them. These boys have some serious mother issues.
Kelly (Laurie Okin) is Craig’s wife or I should say widow. Kelly an innocent by stander is stuck picking up the pieces and fighting to save her own life after dealing with this awful duo. The play opens with Kelly packing up her Manhattan apartment when she has an unexpected visit from Craig’s twin, Peter. Her expression changes from calm to hostel the moment Peter walks in the door. Peter continues to push Kelly into deeper anger as he keeps nagging for more and more information, which is just too painful for her. Her marriage to Craig didn’t end well, and she was left with lots of unanswered questions that she is painfully forced to look at with Peter’s visit.
Grinstead changes back and forth between his conversation with Kelly as Peter and as Kelly’s husband Craig. The dialogue exposes more of the story layer by layer. Craig left Kelly for the last time to head over to Iraq but as we discover it’s not just to serve his country, but it’s more about his need to serve himself.
I noticed something I thought was interesting when looking at the set. The stage had a slope in the front. I did some research and discovered that the stage moved in the original production that was in Lincoln Center. Shinn wanted the movement as a way of moving the audience through the different time periods. However it didn’t really feel like it was missed. I didn’t ask any one at the Rogue Machine why they did that, but I assumed it was to give the impression of movement. Also Shinn used a television set as a way of escape. Kelly would hide out in her house for hours watching television, basking in the brainless escape.
When the lights went down I was a bit exhausted; it was disturbing and absolutely intriguing at the same time. The dialogue never lets up and I hung on to every last word with anticipation of the next sentence.
I have to admit I discussed it afterwards for days with the guest I brought who happens to be my brother. He had seen it in New York. Even though artistically he is hard to please, he admitted the production was excellent.
Michael Peretzian directed this intellectual jewel flawlessly bringing out the best in his actors. Okin and Grinstead go deep into the core of their characters and never let up; they feed off each other’s anger like hungry lions in a den of dogs.
There is just not much else to say. It’s the Rogue Machine. They’re just GOOD! One of these days I will be disappointed and I will have to give them a less than nice review. But so far it has not happened, and I am not holding my breath.
If this production was any indication I know the new season will be just as good as their other’s and maybe better.
Photos by John Flynn
Written: by Christopher Shinn
Director: Michael Peretzian
Cast: Burt Grinstead, Laurie Okin
Rogue Machine Theater Company
5041 Pico Blvd. LA CA. 90019
Runs Saterday@5pm Sunday @ 7pm Mondays @ 8pm