Wednesday, December 18, 2013
The Night Alive ***
The Atlantic Theater Company continues its role as New York home of contemporary Irish playwrights Martin McDonagh and Conor McPherson (The Beauty Queen of Leenane, The Lieutenant of Inishmore and The Cripple of Inishmaan by the former; Port Authority and Dublin Carol by the latter) with this production of McPherson's latest play, imported from London's Donmar Warehouse and directed by the playwright. We meet five marginal Dubliners -- Tommy (Ciaran Hinds), a man-with-van, divorced and alienated from his children; his needy sidekick Doc (Michael McElhatton), who may be a bit slow; Tommy's disapproving uncle Maurice (Jim Norton), in whose house Tommy rents a room; Aimee (Caoilfhionn Dunne), the prostitute Tommy brings home after rescuing her from a beating; and Kenneth (Brian Gleeseon), her ex-boyfriend/pimp with anger issues. At a very leisurely pace, we are introduced to the first four characters, whose banter is often very funny. We are jolted to attention when the play takes a sudden violent turn with the arrival of Kenneth. Complications arise. The combination of humor, pathos, dread, violence and possible redemption did not blend easily for me. Tommy, Doc and Maurice come across as well-developed characters, but Aimee is underwritten and Kenneth is an enigma. The actors are simply superb; in lesser hands, their roles would be reduced to cliches. Soutra Gilmour's set and costumes are very effective. McPherson seems to be that exceptional playwright who is the best possible director of his own work. The play has much to admire, but I wish it ended one scene sooner. The ending seemed sentimental and unearned. Running time: one hour, 45 minutes; no intermission.