Dying City examines the politics of grief and violence through the microcosm of the psyche
Dying City examines the politics of grief and violence through the microcosm of the psyche

In Aenigma Theatre‘s Dying City, a young therapist is confronted by her late husband’s identical twin brother a year after his death.

Dying City
Vancity Culture Lab, 1895 Venables Street

1. Tell us about your show.

Dying City is about a young therapist named Kelly, whose husband Craig was killed while on a tour of duty as a soldier in Iraq the year before. As she struggled with her grief, Kelly decided to cut herself off from his side of the family, including his Identical Twin Brother, Peter, whom she had been close with before. In the present however, her efforts to move on are thrown into chaos when Peter shows up unexpectedly on her doorstep one evening. The play, which takes place in July of 2005, depicts the tense interaction between Peter and Kelly as they try to come to terms with their mutual grief, despite Kelly being uncertain about Peter’s true intentions. There are also flashback scenes interspersed throughout the play that depict Kelly and Craig’s (who is played by the same actor as Peter) relationship the night before he was deployed in 2004.

2. Why should someone come see your show?

Dying City is a disquieting, profound exploration of how two very different people deal with grief. The dialogue is extremely realistic: the characters often talk over one another and change their tracks of thought in mid-sentence. Peter’s intentions are fairly ambiguous at the start of the play, and the story unfolds almost like a mystery. The characters’ layers are slowly peeled off and the bigger picture slowly starts to come into focus.

What’s interesting about the play is that it is structured very much like a trauma itself. People are often triggered by certain things which result in them being assaulted by memories of the past that they would rather forget. Similarly the flashback scenes are structured in such a way that they occur when Kelly happens to be triggered by something.

 Dying City also manages to explore complex issues such as the correlation between sex and violence, the kinds of people who might be attracted to war, as well as the overarching effect of war on the younger generation of people. It does so, however, in very subtle ways without being overly preachy. Dying City confronts difficult questions that are relevant, especially in an increasingly militarized United States that has begun to question their intentions in Iraq. The play does not, however, seek to provide any easy answers.

3. If your show was a superhero which superhero would it be, and why?

Dying City would most resemble the former hero, turned anti-hero, Jason Todd (specifically during the Red Hood storyline in the Batman comics and animated movie). Jason Todd was one of Batman’s Robins, who was tragically killed by the Joker. He is brought back to life a few years later however, and takes up the mantle of the Red Hood, an antagonist to Batman (and later an anti-hero). He returns to Gotham City, where his presence haunts a still grief-stricken Batman. A traumatic death is the inciting event in both these cases, which deal with grief and unsettling revelations about the characters. Although Craig in Dying City does not come back to life, the spectre of his memory returns to haunt Kelly when Peter invades her home after a year. Peter does try to symbolically bring Craig back to life as well, during the course of the play.

A metaphorical battle reveals the inner darkness in the characters as their layers are stripped away and their true intentions are slowly revealed, much like Jason Todd’s was. Furthermore, the questions of morality, violence inherent in human nature as well, and the methods of coping with grief are ingrained in both Dying City and Jason Todd’s characterization.

Jason Todd is an unsettling, not all together likeable, but complex character that forces us to confront the darker side of the human psyche. He often leaves people disturbed, but thoroughly fascinated.

4. If you could see only one show at the Vancouver Fringe Festival, besides your own, what show would that be?

The Orbweaver, which is written by Paula Zelaya Cervantes and produced by Once Once Producciones. It is an original script, as well as co-production between artists from Mexico and Vancouver. Their entire cast, however, consists of actors from Mexico.  I think it’s always fascinating to see art from other cultures, and to be able to experience that with actors that are native to that culture  is a gift.

The 2016 Vancouver Fringe Festival runs September 8-18 on Granville Island and stages around town. Visit http://vancouverfringe.com for tickets and information.