What is particularly fascinating about Shining City is that it has a ghost, but unfortunately that ghost only makes an appearance right at the end, and the ghost is not even there for revenge, which is slightly disappointing. It is clear from the first page of the play that it is pretty much all chaos. While the play has a story that drags on, it definitely does not follow the classical structure. It leaves the reader in a state trying to decipher everything they just read, and it has no “regular” plotline because there are too many loose ends to be considered as having a fully developed plot.
One stage that could make Shining City fit into a “regular” plotline is that it has exposition, or at least a minimal amount. The “Setting” does an adequate job of briefly explaining the contents of the set. While the exposition does provide enough information to get by, it is never concrete. It is always “maybe” or “perhaps”, which suggests that there is no definitive answer or explanation for anything in the story.
However, I do think that parts of the exposition reflect parts of the characters’ stories. For example, right at the beginning it states, “there are more books on the floor, as though they have been unpacked but have yet to be put away,” which perhaps suggests that there is baggage left to deal with, for both lan and John. That could also reflect postmodernism as a whole because it suggests there is more that needs to be done, and postmodernistic work is not necessarily complete or polished.
While the exposition is probably the only stage of the classical structure Shining City actually satisfies, it still does not do enough overall to provide a convincing story and a plotline because nothing is fully explained. There are few instances that contribute to a complication and crisis, but they ultimately have no weight. In the second scene, when lan tells Naesa that he can’t do it anymore, that would be one instance, but it does not really move the plot along or add any suspense. There is one point when Naesa tells John that Mark, the guy she had a brief affair with, was genuine when he asked her how she was.
And that moment sets up a comparison to a part in the next scene, when John admits to lan that the woman he was having an affair with, Vivien, and her text asking how he was made him feel like somebody truly cared about him. Situations throughout all five scenes could be seen as contributing to the overall complication and crisis, and maybe even the climax, but they are really just situations thrown into the play for the sake of being thrown in. The climax of the play would be in the third scene, where John completely opens up to lan in his therapy session.
He admits he was emotionally unavailable in his marriage, that he was having an affair, that he felt lonely, how he bought the red coat for Mari out of guilt for cheating. However, this climax only explains how John is feeling. That is the only thing that is explained. In comparison to the second scene, the third scene is pretty similar. One partner addresses their affair, one admits to finding solace and sincerity in the people they had an affair with, and they both end with one essentially dumping the other person.
However, when John questions if Mari is just looking out for him, that would be the tip of the climax because he is realizing why he is seeing her ghost and what she is trying to do. With just the illusion of a resolution, this play leaves with more questions than answers. John shows up to lan’s office with an antique lamp, but we do not why a lamp other than it was a good “thank you” gift. Also, the ice cream truck music makes a reappearance, and we still do not know what it means other than that it was the music John heard when he saw Mari, and now it is the music lan hears when he sees Mari.
Despite the lack of resolution, it was interesting that John concludes his spiel about ghosts about how it is not about seeing the ghost, but how that ghost makes you feel. That line resonated with me because it connects with something lan said earlier, how therapy was about perceiving reality. It is one of the few points that connect with each other because John learns that it was not even about seeing Mari’s ghost but about perceiving it as guidance to get through his guilt and shame and come to terms with what has happened with his wife.
But overall, there are still a lot of loose ends, and nothing is fully explained. Shining City clearly deviates from the traditional structure because it barely satisfies any of the stages. It does a decent job with the exposition, but it is never definitive and suggests room for any kind of variation. The rest of the scenes could be categorized into the remaining four stages of the classical structure, but they do not completely fulfill the stages, which ultimately leaves the reader with a sense of confusion as to what they just read.