×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

The Coming World

A coastal reverie finds a talented playwright in over his head with "The Coming World," the latest play from Christopher Shinn, the 25-year-old American dramatist who has been causing a quiet stir in London of late. I missed his much-heralded local debut, "Four," but caught the mesmerizing "Other People" that came next to the Royal Court. "The Coming World" has sensitivity to spare -- arguably, too much so -- and a gift for fracturing a telling narrative of small-town life that recalls Conor McPherson, circa "This Lime Tree Bower." But for all its flights of poetic parlance, this newest play is decidedly earthbound.

With:
Ed/Ty - Andrew Scott Dora - Doraly Rosen

A coastal reverie finds a talented playwright in over his head with “The Coming World,” the latest play from Christopher Shinn, the 25-year-old American dramatist who has been causing a quiet stir in London of late. I missed his much-heralded local debut, “Four,” but caught the mesmerizing “Other People” that came next to the Royal Court. “The Coming World” has sensitivity to spare — arguably, too much so — and a gift for fracturing a telling narrative of small-town life that recalls Conor McPherson, circa “This Lime Tree Bower.” But for all its flights of poetic parlance, this newest play is decidedly earthbound.

An interview on display in the Soho Theater lobby makes clear that Eugene O’Neill was Shinn’s muse this time around, in which case the influence seems to have been the dubious one of the American master at his murkiest and most repetitively opaque. (“A Moon for the Misbegotten” gets quoted at the front of the published script; so, elsewhere, do Whitman and Wallace Stevens.)

Dora (Doraly Rosen) emerges first, speaking of “feeling good,” though it doesn’t take long before it’s clear in just which way she will be made to feel bad. A Blockbuster Video employee in an unnamed New England town, she is in nervous thrall to her ex, Ed (Andrew Scott), a reckless layabout drawn to drugs and booze who is desperate for cash — to the point of robbing his former girlfriend’s store.

Ed and Dora share the first half of the (intermissionless) evening, with lone male thesp Scott standing up near the halfway mark and turning about in order to transform himself into Ed’s tattooed twin brother, Ty. What will any one person do out of need and guilt? Do limitations exist to the demands of love? “The Coming World” conjures up a mostly silent landscape rife with the largest of questions, which wash over the characters like “the roll and retreat” of waves lapping up against the characters’ lives, as if to spur them on toward truth. (Doing its own bit to abet the ambience: Jason Taylor’s lighting of Michael Pavelka’s spare, planked set, a mound near the rear of the stage the sole literal hint of the beachside terrain.)

That same “roll and retreat” also serves to characterize language as interested in the nature of storytelling and memory as it is in the specific recollections that get summoned up. (It’s no accident that an offstage figure like the bar manager Martin has a presence every bit the equal of the trio whom Shinn puts before us.)

One wishes, then, that Shinn trusted atmosphere and nuance enough to help do his work for him rather than pontificating about “desire and truth pull(ing) at the soul with unequal amoral force.” Different actors might make the evening a feat of performance which, under Mark Brickman’s direction, isn’t quite realized here. (Scott is amiable enough but just doesn’t have the chops to individuate the two contrasting men.) Rosen’s emotional directness is as fresh and disarming as it was in “Other People” just over a year ago, but it will take other plays, I fear — and other closing images than a crying seagull — before Shinn starts connecting to his audience and not just to a discourse that risks washing all but the most dedicated theatergoer out to sea.

The Coming World

Soho Theater, London; 144 Seats; £15 ($22) Top

Production: A Soho Theater Co. presentation of a play in one act by Christopher Shinn. Directed by Mark Brickman.

Creative: Sets and costumes, Michael Pavelka; lighting, Jason Taylor; movement; Liz Rankin; dialect coach, Penny Dyer. Opened April 5, 2001. Reviewed April 10. Running time: 1 HOUR, 50 MIN.

Cast: Ed/Ty - Andrew Scott Dora - Doraly Rosen

More Legit

  • Hamilton West End Production.

    'Hamilton' Panic Over Mistaken Reports of Gunfire Injures Three in San Francisco

    Three people were injured after mistaken reports of an active shooter at a San Francisco production of “Hamilton” caused attendees to flee the theater. CNN reported that a woman experienced a medical emergency — later determined to be a heart attack — during a scene in Lin-Manuel Miranda’s play wherein Founding Father Alexander Hamilton is shot on [...]

  • The American Clock review

    London Theater Review: 'The American Clock'

    Time is money. Money is time. Both come unstuck in “The American Clock.” Arthur Miller’s kaleidoscopic account of the Great Depression, part autobiography, part social history, crawls through the decade after the Wall Street crash, dishing up snapshots of daily life. In the Old Vic’s classy revival, director Rachel Chavkin (“Hadestown”) tunes into the play’s [...]

  • Jake Gyllenhaal

    Off Broadway Review: Jake Gyllenhaal in 'Sea Wall/A Life'

    Comfy? Okay, let’s talk Death: sudden death, painful death, lingering death, accidental death, and whatever other kinds of death happen to come into the receptive minds of playwrights Simon Stephens (“Sea Wall”) and Nick Payne (“A Life”). The writing in these separate monologues — playing together on a double bill at the Public Theater — [...]

  • Michael Jackson Estate Cancels Musical Test-Run

    Michael Jackson Estate Cancels Musical Test-Run

    With an HBO documentary that places strong allegations of abuse against Michael Jackson premiering in two weeks, the late singer’s estate announced Thursday that it’s canceling a scheduled Chicago test run of a jukebox musical about him. The estate and its producing partner in the musical, Columbia Live Stage, said that they’re setting their sights on going [...]

  • All About Eve review

    West End Review: Gillian Anderson and Lily James in 'All About Eve'

    To adapt a crass old adage: it’s “All About Eve,” not “All About Steve.” Stripping Joseph L. Mankiewicz’s sharp-witted screenplay about a waning theater star of its period trappings, Ivo van Hove’s stage adaptation fine-tunes its feminism for our own sexist age — image-obsessed, anti-aging, the time of Time’s Up. Rather than blaming Lily James’ [...]

  • Adam Shankman

    Listen: Why Adam Shankman Directs Every Movie Like It's a Musical

    Director Adam Shankman’s latest movie, the Taraji P. Henson comedy “What Men Want,” isn’t a musical. But as one of Hollywood’s top director-choreographers of musicals and musical sequences, he approaches even non-musicals with a sense of tempo. Listen to this week’s podcast below: “When I read a script, it processes in my head like a [...]

  • Matthew Bourne's 'Cinderella' Review

    L.A. Theater Review: Matthew Bourne's 'Cinderella'

    How much can you change “Cinderella” before it is no longer “Cinderella”? In the case of choreography maestro Matthew Bourne — who, it should be said, first unveiled his spin on the classic folk tale some 22 years ago — the music is most certainly “Cinderella” (Prokofiev’s 1945 score, to be exact), but the plot [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content