The first play I saw that was written by Christopher Shinn was Dying City at Second Stage Theater. I posted about it on this blog on June 23, 2019. The play was enthralling. Allow me to quote myself, which I have never done before. “Mr. Shinn holds back the details, building suspense and intrigue until the characters spill out the truth. He then takes the characters to a place of understanding, both free of what was weighing them down and newly burdened by their current awareness.” I immediately bought an anthology of his plays an read all five of them. Each work is distinct, yet all contain skillfully crafted dialogue and characters in search of their own truths.
When I read he adapted Judgment Day, which was running at the Park Avenue Armory in December, I did something I rarely do. I bought a full price ticket. I wrote about that production in a blog post on December 14, 2019. I won’t directly quote myself again. I’ll just paraphrase. In Judgement Day Mr. Shinn builds strong characters motivated by the underlying themes in Ödön von Horváth’s original play. You empathize with their situation and feel, as they do, that there is no escape from their actions.
Last week I read another of his plays, Against. Of all the plays of his that I read, it is one of the more complex and enigmatic. This is because of two skillfully crafted elements: his structure, and the creation of his main character, Luke. In the first scene we find out this “Silicon Valley billionaire” thinks he was visited by God. The message he received was, “Go where there’s violence.” It is the opening line of the play and sets Luke off on his journey. His character unravels one page at a time as we hear the adoration and suspicions of the people he comes in contact with. The action is not fast rising, but builds the world of the play layer upon layer with each progressive scene. The ending is unexpected, yet brings about the change that Luke was hoping to evoke. You are left with the realization of how violence is firmly embedded within our culture. You wonder what needs to happen to change the “status quo.”
If you are looking a good read in your time at home with no access to live theatre, I recommend reading the works of Christopher Shinn. Do as I did, start with Dying City. His collection of plays is entitled Where Do We Live & Other Plays. Save Against for last. It will serve as a stunning ending to your Christopher Shinn journey.