Billy Carter and Matthew Broderick have a session

Shining City, directed by Ciarán O’Reilly, features Matthew Broderick in his Irish Rep debut as staid widower John, who for the first time in his life seeks the help of a therapist. In a compelling monologue, John describes how he sees his late wife as a ghost. He sees her in the red coat he bought, a big expense, that she admired in a shop window and never expected to receive. John believes his dead wife appears to him as punishment for his interest in another woman. Billy Carter, so memorable as the patient bartender in The Weir, plays the compassionate therapist Ian, who helps John shake that unhelpful belief.

Ian, a former priest, is in search of love. Lisa Dwan in the role of Ian's bad wife does some fine acting, though her part is thankless as written. We are meant to question their child’s DNA—Ian is too easily let off the hook by the playwright, Conor McPherson. In a small role, James Russell is remarkable as a hustler who meets a lot of unhappily married men. Russell’s looming height and coarse accent give his scene a welcome threat and sense of danger.

The play was rehearsed offsite during a two-year renovation by Garrison Architects. The inauguration is in September, after finishing touches are completed. The new space is so powerful and fresh feeling, with dark walls and comfortable seating. We’re so glad to see the deserving Irish Rep get a glorious makeover.

For Shining City, the scenic design of Charlie Corcoran exploits the seemingly infinite possibilities of the new stage, making the Dublin therapist’s office feel expansive and warm in spite of the cold rain outside. The Irish Rep has always been a harbor in a storm. And though not a favorite McPherson, this incarnation does justice to the topics of transition and the ghosts that will hang around.

Down the street from the Irish Repertory Company is the pretty Belgian restaurant BXL Zoute (zoute means “to salt”) and a hundred Belgian beers on tap and in bottles. We chose delicious beers made in Trappist monasteries: Westmalle Trappist and Chimay.

The Croque Madame swept past our table dozens of times during a pre-matinee lunch: a gooey, cheesey croque with fried egg on top, served with frites and a salad. Instead we ordered a super salmon with crisp skin, served over leeks and roasted potatoes, in a red wine reduction, and moules frites or mussels and french fries, the house specialty, with cuvée, on the $17 prix fixe. Mussels come with many sauces here, include Grand-Mère, with cream and bacon;  à la moutarde (very popular), and a hot Thai coconut curry sauce. For dipping in to sauce pots a first-class bread is served, whole wheat and white.

BXL Zoute, near the Flatiron, is perfect for pre- and post-theatre. Faux oriental carpets are painted to the floor. The bar is friendly and welcoming. Here is great food at affordable prices. Where else can you get Profiteroles and ice cream for $7? Our Belgian captain, Hugo, said the regulars most often get the filet mignon with veg sides at $30 and the steak tartare and frites.

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