Review: Dying City (surface/underground theatre and Elisa’s Boy Productions)

Dying City is a play I am still thinking about. There are so many unanswered questions in this piece that it is almost frustrating to watch it. That is because the acting is terrific and the writing does not let up for a second.

We meet Kelly, a woman who appears to be packing up her apartment when she is interrupted by a man who we learn is the identical twin brother of her husband, who died in Iraq.

The play goes in and out of different timelines as Sergio Di Zio goes back and forth between the two brothers, Peter and Craig. Di Zio is the kind of actor who I find to be completely intriguing. There is something so honest and real in his portrayal that at times I wanted to hug him and at others I wanted to punch him in the face. Lesley Faulkner’s understated portrayal on Kelly was beautiful and  heartbreaking and at various points throughout the play it was because of her that I was reduced to tears.

In the talkback afterwards they asked if you felt your sympathies aligned with any character in particular and I wasn’t sure. In many ways it was Kelly – perhaps because I am a woman, perhaps because I can relate to some of her emotions but at others it was Peter, the gay twin who wanted to keep a connection so badly with his brother’s widow.

I even found myself feeling sorry for Craig, especially when he curled up on the couch, his hands over his ears in defiance almost of the world – but more than anything I wanted to know what motivated his actions. But as discussed afterwards, perhaps we can never or should never really know and we can all just theorise.

I suppose the most important part in all of this is that it is a play that really makes you want to have a discussion and as I have said before that is personally my favourite kind of theatre. It was also one of the first plays for me that really made me think about Iraq and what that did to all the people involved.  It made me sad for the world that we live in and made me think about how complicated life is.

I loved Peter’s commentary about Jon Stewart and how he is only speaking to a certain demographic and how we need to find ways to speak to a larger group – and I found that to be also so true of theatre. How any changes we want to make in the world, or certain stories we want to tell are often only shared with the people who are already making the changes. It is a constant struggle to reach a wider audience to activate change in the world and I am always looking for ways to bridge that gap. I think Shinn’s writing really struck a cord with me. It is so real and so timely and the actors never let me down for a second.

I believe this is an incredibly important play and two very wonderful actors perform it. And I mean this with no disrespect to the Toronto Free Gallery  but they need to be in a better space. My only complaint of the whole evening is that I often couldn’t see the actor’s faces. I had heads in front of me obstructing my view so when you go, get there early enough to sit in the front as this is a play with performers that I am sure will benefit from being seen up close and personal.

I applaud the whole team for bringing this show to the stage – you can see how much work Di Zio, Faulkner and the very talented director Peter Pasyk have brought to the stage. They have respected this script well and invested in it fully. I urge the audience to do the same. You might not like it but I believe it will be worth it.



  • Dying City is playing at the Toronto Free Gallery, (1277 Bloor St. W.) through December 17, 2011
  • Shows run Tuesday to Saturday at 8:00PM with an additional matinee on Sundays at 2:00pm
  • Tickets $25
  • Tickets are available, in person at the box office (cash only) or visit

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