Go Fest Yourself

Dispatches from the festival frontlines.


With a terrible script and mediocre acting, Dying City is an overly melodramatic psychodrama about upper-middle-class New York City problems.  Featuring bland characters who aren't engaging in the least, they suffer one contrived plot twist after another, trapped in the most boring Tennessee Williams nightmare ever conceived.  The dialogue is stilted and the delivery is hamfisted, reeking of author self-insert hackery.  The play constantly relies on cheap emotional tactics - even going so far as to needlessly shoehorn the term "NINE ELEVEN" in multiple times - to keep the stakes at near fever-pitch levels.  Yet when it comes time for the payoff, there is none because we have never properly connected to the characters.  Director Amy DeFelice in particular should feel ashamed for foisting such dreck upon an unsuspecting audience, for if this is truly the finest new American play that has been seen by The New York Observer, might I suggest that they get out more often?

One star out of five.

more in Fringe Reviews     |     posted Aug 15th, 2010 at 3:07am     

Comments: 8

Peator wrote:

Couldn't disagree more. For those of you out there that want to see some brilliant acting. Go see this show.

on Aug 19th, 2010 at 2:14am Report Abuse

Comment Lady wrote:

I cannot agree with this review at all. I saw this show, knowing nothing about it, and was very impressed. The script actually has an arc, realistic dialogue, and 3 defined characters. Both actors are completely 'in' despite quick changes in time and for one of them character. They both offer nuanced performances that are coloured by subtext. It's real when most of the shows at the Fringe are about the punchline.

After seeing 20+ shows so far, Kristi Hansen would have my vote for Best Actress at the Fringe and this would be in the top five for Best Production.

on Aug 19th, 2010 at 7:24pm Report Abuse

Ravynn wrote:

Completely disagree with this review. A great show and a great performance. Perhaps not really a 'fringe-esque' production, but definitely a worthy performance of something like the Citadel or Shadow Theatre. Great design by Roper as well and really helped to fill up the otherwise barren Westbury Stage.

Kudos to Hansen and MacInnis. Excellent work.

on Aug 20th, 2010 at 11:03am Report Abuse

brightdog wrote:

Dear Mr. Marko;

While not perfect, this was one of the best things at the Fringe this year.

The play has been lauded in some places, and criticised in others - mostly over the having one actor play twins. One wonders if having an actual set of twins would make a difference to the perception that this is only a gimmick.

It is not an easy work to stage - not all directors have the nuance and delicacy required to work around material that might otherwise be seen as blatantly manipulative. Ms. DeFelice has done an excellent job.

It would be hard to conceive of a NY-set drama that deals with the Iraq conflict etc without references to 9/11 - especially when one of the characters has died in the course of the conflict which grew from that event. Shoehorning or reality? For people who were in NY on that day, especially if they were near the WTC, the abiding effect should not be underestimated. Shinn portrays a disturbing reality - and just because it is not our reality here in Edmonton, that does not mean it is not valid for those characters in that place at that time.

Fortunately Mr. Shinn is a celebrated playwright, and this particular work has had several acclaimed productions. A bad review will not affect him in the least. He will not be asked to return his Obie award.

An audience that loves good theatre and is aware of the playwright, the play, or similar works, will not feel as if anything is being "foisted" on them. It is unfortunate that the reviewer felt the work took him by surprise - but it is hardly the fault of the work.

This is a Fringe festival. If you want safe and non-challenging, go to a dinner theatre. Personal attacks on directors who have taken great pains to find the shows that are hot and new elsewhere and give Edmonton a taste of them - seems to be counter to what a Fringe festival is all about.

Fine - you approached the play ignorant of the subject matter, the history (both of the play and the context), and the playwright, and you didn't like it. That makes it hard to know how much of the problem is with the production itself or with the reviewer's lack of knowledge.

Mr. Marko complains that the New York Observer needs to get out more. I suppose he would say the same of the New York Times' reviewers, who also wrote favourably about the play.

Ms. DeFelice has no reason to be ashamed of her production, but SEE Magazine should be feeling a bit red-faced over this review. It's embarrassing.

on Aug 20th, 2010 at 9:49pm Report Abuse

Aaron Marko wrote:

Bucking for a job, are we, brightdog? Well, too bad. The position of asshole has already been taken by yours truly.

on Aug 21st, 2010 at 12:04am Report Abuse

Aaron Marko wrote:

Frankly, I don't care how many awards Christopher Shinn has won. Dying City is terrible.

on Aug 21st, 2010 at 12:05am Report Abuse

brightdog wrote:

Correction, Mr. Marko: YOU didn't like Dying City. That is only an opinion - you seem to have some trouble understanding the distinction between a reviewer having an opinion and a critic pronouncing judgment.

Eva Marie Clarke can articulate beautifully the distinction between reviewer and critic. She always maintained that, despite her knowledge and experience, she was still a reviewer; she did not have the depth of knowledge of a critic. Your own admissions in another thread are that you do not have that knowledge base and you are not interested in acquiring it.

I don't think you are an asshole. There is great hope for you as a reviewer: you have strong opinions and you express them. Fortunately the ignorance is something that can be fixed if you work on it!

As for the question of a job - I have more than enough on my plate, thank you. I am overqualified to be a reviewer and it is likely SEE wouldn't want to match the hourly or per word rates I get elsewhere in the industry. I like SEE and the one time I pitched them a piece on a subject of interest to me it was accepted with warmth (and with apologies for the rate of pay). Who knows - maybe they would like to have a real reviewer/critic... but your job is safe from me, Mr. Marko.

on Aug 22nd, 2010 at 9:42am Report Abuse

Kafka Esquire wrote:

Hold on, I need to get my kid to turn down the TV.

on Aug 23rd, 2010 at 2:47am Report Abuse

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