Courtesy of SCOTT SUCHMAN
“Dying City” tells the provocative story about violence and war both overseas and in day-to-day life. Though the War in Iraq and the events of 9/11 are a major backdrop to this play, what brings it to life is its focus is on the characters and their relationships. The show is running at Signature Theater from Oct. 2 to Nov. 25.
Kelly (Rachel Zampelli) is barely hanging on after the suspicious death of her husband Craig in Iraq a year earlier. Craig’s twin brother Peter shows up at her apartment unannounced, bearing emails sent to him from Craig in Iraq and his own heavy set of emotional baggage. Craig and Peter are both played by the same actor, Thomas Keegan.
The play jumps around, set before Craig’s life and after it. With each switch the audience discovers more about the turmoil and trauma in the lives of these three characters, as well as their complex relationships with each other and with the unseen characters they talk about. There is also a sense of heightened intensity as more of the past and present story unravels.
Running at about an hour, the two-person show has an incredible pace. The action of the scenes is broken up excellently by the small pauses to cue a switch in time. It never feels like the show is lagging, and there’s just enough time to fully process the previous scene before a new one starts.
Zampelli and Keegan have an incredible chemistry that gives further depth to the beautifully written script. Keegan’s portrayals of Craig and Peter are both remarkably distinct. He manages in just one hour to create two, fully-fleshed-out characters.
Zampelli portrays the fragile aspects of Kelly’s character with sensitivity and nuance, drawing the audience into her life. This makes the moments in which she erupts with pent-up anger all the more powerful.
Though the passion of the actors is certainly enough to carry this show, they are supported by a well-executed set and lighting design. Set designer Daniel Conway creates the look of a New York apartment down to the last detail, from the books filling the shelves to the modern furniture to the city skyline you can see through the curtains in the back. The lights not only cue the switches in time but create an atmosphere that supports the emotion of the play.
“Dying City” will take you on an emotional ride and leave you pondering not just the lives of the three characters but your own life and relationships.