Opera House Arts production of ‘Dying City’ brings big ideas, emotions to Stonington

Posted Feb. 02, 2011, at 6:36 p.m.
Juri Henley-Cohn (left) plays Craig, a Harvard graduate and Iraq war combatant, and Therese Plaehn plays his wife, Kelly, a New York City therapist, in Opera House Arts production of Christopher Shinn's award-winning drama, &quotDying City," Feb. 3-13 at the Stonington Opera House.
Photo courtesy of Linda Nelson
Juri Henley-Cohn (left) plays Craig, a Harvard graduate and Iraq war combatant, and Therese Plaehn plays his wife, Kelly, a New York City therapist, in Opera House Arts production of Christopher Shinn's award-winning drama, "Dying City," Feb. 3-13 at the Stonington Opera House.

The relationship between a woman, a soldier killed in the line of duty and his brother is at the center of Christopher Shinn’s “Dying City,” a play that is set to open at the Stonington Opera House Thursday, Feb. 3. Though the play deals with many issues and ideas, the story of Kelly, Craig and Peter unfolds slowly and mysteri-ously over the course of the events.

“Dying City,” produced through Opera House Arts, premiered on Broadway in 2007, and instantly was acclaimed for its tough but thoughtful treatment of many big ideas: war, violence, death and the nature of truth.

“It asks people to think about the search for truth, and what we tell ourselves that we believe is the truth, versus what actually is the truth,” said director Peter Richards. “There’s certainly issues of war and violence in there, as well as trauma and grief. There’s a lot of ideas at play.”

The plot revolves around Kelly, who receives a surprise visit from Peter, the twin brother of her husband, Craig, a solider who was killed in the Iraq war. Therese Plaehn plays Kelly, and Juri Henley-Cohn plays the roles of both Peter and Craig.

“It unfolds like a mystery, piece by piece. You slowly get more information about what happened to all three of them. Little clues reveal themselves about what each character’s agenda is, and eventually the truth does come out,” said Richards. “The hope is that the audience thinks about themselves, and who they are as people in this society. There are a lot more questions than answers.”

Richards directed last winter’s OHA production of “Brilliant Traces,” another two-person drama that was the first-ever wintertime full production OHA has done. It was so well-received by the community that a second winter production was planned for 2011.

“One of the great things we learned was that it felt like people were really hungry for theater,” said Richards. “They’re also hungry specifically for theater that’s serious, and makes them think. Things are very quiet here in the winter, so this is something that shakes that up.”

The Stonington Opera House is renowned statewide for its commitment to forward-thinking, world-class theater, music and arts programming. After “Dying City,” the Opera House will stay dark for the month of March, except for weekly film programming. Then, in April, Opera House Arts will welcome “Dear Fish,” an original musical by Dave Hunsaker. “Dear Fish” is the final project of “Maine to Alaska, Swapping Fish Tales,” an educational program of the Opera House’s Kennedy Center partnership with the island schools at the Reach Performing Arts Center.

“Dying City” will run from Thursday, Feb. 3, through Sunday, Feb. 13, with performances at 7 p.m. Feb. 3, 4, 5, 11 and 12, and at 2 p.m. Feb. 6 and 13. Tickets are $20 and are available at the Opera House box office and online at www.operahousearts.org.

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