, Salem, MA


January 17, 2013

Theater of the mind

'Shining City' is more than just a ghost story

Fans of “Ghost Hunters,” the television show in which people hunt for apparitions in abandoned buildings, may want to check out “Shining City” at Salem Theatre Company.

The play, by contemporary Irish playwright Conor McPherson, is also about scary visitors from a world beyond.

But rather than confirming the reality of ghosts, “Shining City” is more concerned with what ghosts mean to the people who see them.

And where cast members of the TV show might search for the truth using night-vision goggles and Geiger counters, “Shining City” is simply a series of conversations between two men: John, who recently lost his wife, and Ian, a therapist.

“This guy says he has actually seen one and is begging to be understood,” said John Fogle, the play’s director. “He wants someone to say, I hear you, I believe you, I recognize this happened.”

The therapeutic relationship is an important element of the play, helping define its structure.

“Most of us will understand the milieu of therapy, the dynamics,” Fogle said, “and the need we have for sharing our stories, talking to people who can help us work through the complexities of living.”

While Ian maintains his clinical cool with his patient, he is also dealing with intense conflicts, which are explored in scenes outside his sessions with John.

“He’s stuck, as well,” Fogle said. “They’re both stuck, and trying to get unstuck, and so they share this need.”

Ian is played by Joseph O’Meara, who appeared at Salem Theatre Company a year ago in Tom Stoppard’s “The Real Thing.”

“The emotional truths that come forth from the stage are universal,” he said. “Although it is very much an Irish play, it’s universal pain. I really think it’s about how people try to cope with immense loneliness.”

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