Conor McPherson’s Shining City takes place in a sparsely furnished office/flat where Ian, a fledgling therapist has taken up residence as he attempts to launch his practice. The play is broken up into five uninterrupted scenes, and the bulk of the play deals with Ian’s relationship with is new (and first) patient, John. John initially visits Ian because he believes he is being haunted by the ghost of his dead wife Mari. In their first meeting, John tells Ian about his wife, who died in a horrible car accident. John is now staying in a hotel because he is too frightened to return home.
After Ian’s first meeting with John, he is visited by his estranged fiancée, Neasa. Ian left the priesthood to be with Neasa, but their relationship has been rocky. The two have a baby together and Ian has left her living with his brother’s family. Neasa begs him to come home, but Ian refuses. Neasa then confesses that she had a one-night stand and leaves.
In their second meeting, John reveals in great detail the troubles that afflicted his marriage. He and his wife were married a long time without any children, which often made them feel isolated at social events. As the years went by, a bigger and bigger distance grew between them. John recounts an attempted affair that went sour as well as an ill-fated trip to a brothel.
After Ian’s second meeting with John, Ian brings home Laurence, a male prostitute. Ian is very nervous and admits that he has never been with a man before. Laurence comforts him and the scene ends with the two of them gazing at each other.
In the last scene, John stops by with a gift for Ian, who is packing up his flat. Ian tells John that he is returning to Neasa and the baby. John gives Ian a gift, and tells him that he is much better. John is now dating a woman he likes, and is no longer “haunted” by Mari. Ian tells John he does not think it was a ghost, but that John needed to punish himself. John thanks him and leaves, but when Ian closes the door, Mari’s ghost is standing there staring at him.