Oct 23, 2018
by Alexa Chipman
Deep burrowed pain can destroy the will to fully live. For Tommy, an idyllic family and job has turned into a filthy room rental in his uncle’s house with overflowing garbage bins and a haphazard existence. He survives, and that is all. When a kind-hearted gesture toward an abused woman turns into a brutal struggle with her ex-boyfriend, Tommy is able to rekindle the spark of ambition and uses heartbreak to rebuild and find his sense of purpose. A disturbing insight into the numbing reality of despair, ‘The Night Alive’ shows a light at the end of the tunnel.
Playwright Conor McPherson does not ease the audience in, opening with Aimee staggering onstage with a bleeding nose. Tommy’s flustered realization that the state of his room is disgusting, leading to hurried attempts to shove clothes under beds and behind furniture, is human and honest. Ivy Rose Miller’s enigmatic Aimee and AnthonyAbaté’s Tommy have an instant connection that is mesmerizing. Despite her questionable past, Tommy refuses to hear a word against her, choosing to judge by what he sees, rather than acting on preconceived perceptions.
Cruel, cold-blooded Kenneth takes perverse pleasure in torturing Aimee and anyone who cares for her. Sam Coughlin captures his sadistic mood swings and shocking violence with alarming precision and dramatic flair. Gentle, considerate “Doc” (Kevin Bordi) is naïvely unaware that Kenneth’s spiteful commentary is insulting, and his polite kindness is met with loathing and distain. Bordi’s winning smile after unearthing fresh vegetables from the garden for dinner is easy to sympathize with, and his friendship with Tommy brings out the best in both of them.
The uncle, Maurice, appears to be tyrannical and crotchety at first glance, but like many things in this play, the buried inner beauty is what matters. John Craven’s performance as Maurice while grieving reveals the uncle’s miserable loneliness and the overwhelming cost of sorrow. He pleads for compassion and respect—a family to love him. What more can any of us want?
David Lear’s direction is remarkably tender for what could be a harsh, brutal story. His attention to detail in the set design of a rundown Dublin bedroom, with peeling posters, newspapers scattered across the floor and piles of Ian Fleming books gives the stage a genuine lived-in feel. From toilet flushes to distant, haunting church bells, Doug Faxon’s soundscape is grounded and maintains realism.
‘The Night Alive’ is unflinching in its examination of pain, yet demonstrates unquenchable hope. Main Stage West’s intimate theater has created a singular, powerful production.
Presented by Main Stage West through October 28, 2018
Thur/Fri/Sat at 8:00pm, Sun at 5:00pm
Photos by Ilana Niernberger
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