A crisp new production of acclaimed Irish playwright Conor McPherson‘s Shining City premiered Thursday night at Manhattan’s Irish Repertory Theater. The citizens of this city have relationship secrets – a lot of them. Ian (Billy Carter) is a former priest who has set himself up as a therapist in Dublin. His first patient is widower John (Matthew Broderick) who reveals he’s seeing the ghost of his wife. Ian, meanwhile, is trying to break up with his wife Naesa (Lisa Dwan), who reveals she’s slept with another man during their confrontation. In a later scene, Ian invites a hustler Laurence (James Russell) back to his apartment but can’t quite bring himself to seal the deal.

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Cirian O’Reilly‘s production is tight and the sets are handsomely spare in the Irish Rep’s cosy newly renovated space. Carter ably acquits himself in the leading role, but Broderick’s Irish everyman steals the show. He stammers, “You know,” repeatedly as a verbal tick through his lengthy monologues, as if to underline how much we don’t know about relationships. The four disparate characters in their awkward speeches reflect the muddle of their lives. Even to ourselves, our relationships are just otherworldly mysteries.