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Christopher Shinn's Dying City is powerfully written and topically poignant as it limns three characters affected by the Iraq war.

Dying City; State of the Union 

Dying City
Manbites Dog Theater
Through March 8

Feline in the stealth of its unfolding, Christopher Shinn's Dying City is powerfully written and topically poignant as it limns three characters affected by the Iraq war—Craig, an Army reserve officer; his twin brother Peter, a gay actor; and Kelly, a psychotherapist who is married to Craig. Set on two memorable nights—the night before Craig's departure to Iraq in early 2004, and a night in the summer of 2005, a year after his death—the play offers just as many (if not more) questions than answers.

Manbites Dog Theater's production does a fine job presenting Shinn's script, with Jay O'Berski (playing both brothers) and Dana Marks often demonstrating a strong onstage connection in each pairing. Still, this production, directed by Jeff Storer, falls short of leaving its mark on the script, which, due to its many unanswered questions, provides the cast with the chance some missed opportunities to probe deeper into these characters' existence.

Credit is due to Derrick Ivey for the sparse yet engaging set, particularly for his New York skyline, represented through stark white rectangles of varying sizes that lurked in the shadows like a barricade of ghostly guards. —Megan Stein

State of the Union
Deep Dish Theater
Through March 8

It's tempting to call State of the Union a period piece that only confirmed political junkies could love. But let's face it: Most of those addicts have had some combination of Hunter S. Thompson on the mainline since Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail '72, with escalations in their dosages of Matt Drudge, Bill O'Reilly and Keith Olbermann through the ensuing decades.

Sorry, but Howard Lindsey and Russel Crouse's genteel 1945 political comedy is likely to have about as much of a detoxifying effect on that particular body politic as a handful of baby aspirins on an outpatient in methadone maintenance. As a result, the current Deep Dish Theater production is, mainly, inoffensive—presumably not the first quality political theater aspires to.

Still, it is good to hear Jordan Smith's baritone on the local stage again. Leading actors Jeri Lynn Schulke, David zum Brunnen and Susannah Hough are joined by Larry Evans, Holmes Morrison, Sharlene Thomas and Margaret Jemison. But the shortcomings of the 60-year-old script prevent such a seasoned cast from achieving its best. —Byron Woods


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