'Shining City' a realistic ghost story

Irish playwright Conor McPherson's "Shining City," a play with provocative and challenging themes, kicks off Nevada Conservatory Theatre's new season at 8 p.m. today at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

Though the play is unlike anything the UNLV company has presented in the past, Nevada Conservatory Theatre artistic director Robert Brewer thinks local theater audiences will enjoy a work that he calls "extraordinary."

The play is a realistic ghost story set in contemporary Dublin and centers on Ian, a former priest-turned-therapist, and his patient. It begins with a therapy session. By the end, viewers wonder who is the therapist and who is the patient, says Brewer, who also is directing the play.

"It's what I term a confessional play. We sit and listen to conversations that are intimate; we're looking through a keyhole into someone's soul," Brewer says.

The 90-minute play is challenging because McPherson writes such conversational dialogue, Brewer says, making it difficult to memorize. But when it's performed well, it's captivating, he says.

McPherson's themes often explore the spiritual world, Brewer says, and "Shining City" is no different. The four characters are experiencing a kind of homelessness and a struggle to find their spiritual centers.

Ian is played by Clarence Gilyard, a UNLV theater professor who co-starred for 13 years on "Matlock" and "Walker, Texas Ranger." Ian's patient, John, is portrayed by Richard Leighton, a guest artist with New York, off-Broadway, regional theater and film credits. Katie Mazzola and Eddie Mullaney round out the cast.

The set was designed by guest designer Shoko Kambara; Katrina Hertfelder designed costumes; while Jamie Lofthouse did the lighting.

Contact reporter Sonya Padgett at spadgett@reviewjournal.com or 702-380-4564.