Christopher Shinn's emotionally harrowing "Dying City" works with wondrous efficiency. The 80-minute drama covers not one but two dark nights of the soul, concerning three characters played by two actors.
The brilliant Sacramento- premiere production at Capital Stage lucidly handles the numerous strands of Shinn's moody, overstuffed plot through the remarkably accessible and intimate performances of Chad Deverman and Lyndsy Kail.
Deverman plays Peter, a successful actor with a starring role in a major movie to his credit and a role in New York doing a high-profile revival of Eugene O'Neill's "Long Day's Journey Into Night." There's plenty of intrigue in his work, but it's just deep background in "Dying City's" overall scheme.
Deverman also plays Craig, Peter's identical twin brother, an Army company commander killed in Iraq a year before the 2007 play takes place. There's one significant difference between the brothers: Peter is gay; his social relationships affect the story.
The action moves back and forth in time between two nights in the New York City apartment Craig shared with his wife, Kelly, a psychotherapist. Kail's Kelly displays a distantly scattered and slightly numb affect when Peter barges in on her the night we meet them. He's an erudite, self- effacing charmer, but his presence seems to push the already skittish Kelly into internal hysteria.
As nonthreatening as Peter seems, his visit clearly has an agenda that Kelly doesn't want to deal with. As revelations of their history begin to unfold, there are numerous almost too many reasons that Peter would make Kelly uncomfortable.
Of course he is the twin brother of her deceased husband, but Peter also does not believe the official report of Craig's death, which was listed as an accident.
We also learn that Peter has been consistently trying to reach Kelly, and she has avoided him to the point that she changed phone numbers and is moving out of the city. Peter also was present the night before Craig left for Iraq for the last time, a goodbye-dinner party Kelly reluctantly agreed to let Peter and his boyfriend attend.
The actors are extraordinary as they move between the two nights, with Deverman moving off stage as Peter and coming back as Craig inhabiting a subtly different physical comportment and changed vocal tonality as well.
Kail similarly deftly flips the emotional heart of her character as the scenes toggle back and forth.
Under Jonathan Williams' sympathetic direction, the actors perform a beautiful and wrenching duet.
The play's minor failing is Shinn's need to cram too much into the dense plot so that what seem like major moments or revelations are quickly brushed aside, making way for the next piece in the queue.
It's a consciously post-9/11 story, with that tragedy referenced along with the conflicting emotions around the ensuing military engagements.
Shinn also layers in the deeply conflicted relationships between Kelly and the two brothers, one man she was married to and the other she wants nothing to do with.
There are more questions than answers here, but the production casts a satisfying spell all the same.
What: Jonathan Williams directs Christopher Shinn's post-9/11 drama concerning the aftermath of a military death in Iraq.
Where: Capital Stage, 2215 J St., Sacramento
When: Continues at 7 p.m. Wednesdays, 8 p.m. Thursdays-Saturdays and 2 p.m. Sundays, through Aug. 12
Information: (916) 995-5464, www.capstage.org
Running time: 1 hour and 20 minutes, with no intermission