Time is out of joint in Conor McPherson’s The Night Alive, making its regional premier at Round House Theatre. Taking place solely in the rundown apartment of Tommy, a Dublin burnout trying to get by, the play tells a tale of redemption, or at least some twisted facsimile thereof.
When the enigmatic Aimee comes into Tommy’s life, his worldview is thrown into more disarray than his apartment, and he begins to question if he wants to merely get by, or maybe to do some right by the people he loves.
There are no ghosts or kings in Tommy’s dingy excuse for an abode, but there is far more than just the trash on the floor. Tommy is certainly no Prince of Denmark, and he cares more about scraping together a few Euro than splendid revenge. And yet there is the sense that Tommy’s would-be heroism errs on the side of the universal.
Maybe that’s because at the core of this story of Dublin dejection is actually a nativity story that taps into something transcendent, if not necessarily spiritual. McPherson always includes a bit of the supernatural in his work, and that seems to be the case here, even though the characters and setting are about as mundane as you can get. But despite their worldliness, the relationships and incidents of the play tap into something more than just human. They bring into focus the connection between people, the little spark that’s felt when someone changes from stranger to friend. Or when you dance to “What’s Going On” and your moves just happen to sync up.
It’s the little moments that The Night Alive does best – all the histories told in the silence between friends sharing a late night bag of chips. It realizes that it’s those little things that add up to a life, and it wonders if a life can ever exist in a vacuum.
Although he might not admit it, Tommy’s life is one of reliance. His dependency goes beyond the economic, and he starts to wonder if perhaps he relies on others for his spiritual well being as well. What’s a soul if not a part of a whole?
There are deep metaphysical meditations at play here, but they are never lofty or inaccessible. Most often they take the form of playful banter or late night arguments. They are always latent in the immediate, never getting in the way of a potential laugh. The Night Alive is that special kind of play that makes you realize things without realizing it.
It should be noted that all of this hinges on the performances of the cast, which absolutely shine. While some of the energies on stage seem opposed at first, the actors quickly find their rhythm, tapping into an emotional core and a real sense of truth. Edward Gero plays Tommy, and he does so with wonderful heart and soul. It is sometimes hard to sympathize with Tommy, but it’s never hard to care about him. Similarly, performances by Katie Debuys and Gregory Linnington – as Aimee and Doc, the two figures of love in Tommy’s life – are tender to a tee. They warm the heart even when they are eliciting tears of either sorrow or joy.
Both are felt at every second of the play, and that is The Night Alive’s greatest strength. It hides the tragic in the comic, or perhaps makes us realize that the two aren’t quite opposites. They are imbedded in every moment of the show. Every moment of duplicity, every celebration, every trash bag on the floor – they all have hidden in them a set of questions that don’t have definite answers. But answers would only cheapen them. Time is out of joint, after all. But the night is alive as ever.
The Night Alive by Conor McPherson. Directed by Ryan Rilette. Featuring Edward Gero, Katie Debuys, Gregory Linnington, Michael Tolaydo, and Joseph Carlson. Scenic and Costume Design: Meghan Raham. Lighting Design: ColIn K. Bills. Sound Design/Composition: Eric Shimelons. Dramaturg: Brent Stansell. Stage Manager: Jana Llynn. Produced by Round House Theatre. Reviewed by Sean Craig.