The Happy Medium Theatre should be living Large and feeling Ecstatic about their strong production of Christopher Shinn’s DYING CITY (running through end of July). Shinn’s puzzling political-or is it personal drama (inspired by 9-11 and the Bush-Cheney invasion of Iraq) follows the tortured relationship of a soldier about to leave for Baghdad, his unhappy therapist wife and his needy twin brother.
The action moves forward and back in time, adding more and more negative information about the three with each scene. The trick is that one actor portrays both brothers, a tour de force for Michael Underhill. Kiki Samko, too, gives a powerful, emotional performance as someone suffering unspeakable pain. Thank heaven for director Cameron Cronin who manages to infuse the script with flashes of sardonic humor. Otherwise you’d be drawn into the profound sadness of the piece.
When the Happy Medium folks discovered their plans to perform Shinn’s play at the (now closed) Factory space had to be scuttled, they looked for other digs. Samko and Underhill’s condo in Jamaica Plain, it turns out, can accommodate an audience of twenty or so in their living room, and their open floor plan lends itself easily to the show’s set design. With rental costs on the rise, many theater companies may not be able to afford a traditional space anymore. Kudos to Happy Medium for its intimate “Home-Grown” solution.