By Elizabeth Valerio
Pablo Schreiber is riveting. And as a result, “Dying City” should not be missed.
“Dying City,” a new play by Christopher Shinn, narrates the story of Kelly, a New York City therapist and a war widow to Craig, killed while serving in Iraq. The play flip-flops between snippets of Kelly’s last night with Craig and a confrontation with Peter, Craig’s identical twin brother. Peter is an actor with a troubled career and he has not spoken to his sister-in-law since Craig’s death. Seeking closure, he turns up at Kelly’s apartment unexpectedly, something Kelly has been dreading.
Though Craig and Peter shared much of their DNA, Kelly was always aware of how different they were from each other. Peter, a promiscuous gay movie star, and Craig, a quiet doctoral candidate at Harvard, were always very close. In her conversations with Peter, Kelly discovers secrets that Craig did not want her to learn, and finds that the two brothers have much more in common than she had surmised.
The drama is politically charged, with arguments about the war in Iraq and undertones whispering about homosexuality and the aftermath of 9/11. Kelly’s addiction to TiVo supplies a background of “The Daily Show” and portions of “Law and Order” to fill empty silences and spark discussion of the Bush administration. The material is heavy, but easy to follow and the short scenes leave the audience itching for more.
Schreiber plays both Peter and Craig (they do not grace the stage at the simultaneously) and personalizes the characters by changing his vocal inflection, sexual preference, and his shirt as the scenes progress. Schreiber captures the audience with his precise movement, strong diction, and his 6-foot-4-inch build, which leaves him towering above his costar. He masters both characters and seems very comfortable switching back and forth between them in quick succession. Known for his previous Tony-nominated role in “Awake and Sing!” also performed at Lincoln Center, Schreiber takes on the brothers with expertise and charisma.
“Dying City” is now playing through April 29 at the Mitzi E. Newhouse Theater at 150 W. 65th St. Visit telecharge.com or call 212-362-7600 for tickets.
Photo: Rebecca Brooksher and Pablo Schreiber in a scene from “Dying City,’’ a new play by Christopher Shinn. The Lincoln Center Theater production currently is running at the Mitzi E. Newhouse Theater.