Last Friday was opening night for City Theatre’s production of Connor McPherson’sThe Night Alive, directed by Tracy Brigden. This is a tale about a group of Dubliners scraping by in the present while struggling with their pasts and the uncertainty of their futures both in this life and thereafter.
The story opens as Tommy (Rod Brogan) helps a badly battered Aimee (Hayley Nielsen) into his cluttered one room apartment, which he rents from his uncle, Maurice (Noble Shropshire). She has just been assaulted by her ex-boyfriend Kenneth (Brendan Griffin) and Tommy rescues her from the situation. We come to find out his life, much like his apartment, is a bit messy.
Brogan was truly the anchor of this play. He seemed at home in the tiny apartment and his interactions with his dedicated friend and business partner Doc (Ciaran Byrne) were as if they were actually family. It was his comfort on stage and natural delivery that made this play most believable. Of all the characters, Aimee seems to fit the least. I do not put the blame entirely on Nielsen, but more or less the limitations of the character Aimee’s dialogue. We only ever get hints into her past leaving me wanting more from the character than just a reserved, troubled woman. Although, if Brendan Griffin was my overbearing ex I would probably be just as walled up as Aimee. The only way to describe the atmosphere when Griffin is on stage is unsettling. As an intimidating, abusive ex-boyfriend, he does well, but it is the added hint of insanity in his presence that is terrifying.
When we are first introduced to Doc he stands center stage, a wild sense of joy and mischief smeared across his face, with a pillowcase full of turnips and potatoes he’s pinched from Maurice’s garden. I was immediately under the impression that one of the Took clan had popped out of a Tolkien novel. We come to learn that Doc may have a learning disability, leaving him dependent on Tommy, sleeping at his place and working odd jobs for 15 Euro a day. Though Doc seems to have a screw or two loose, he seems to have a divine understanding of the universe through his dreams, making him both silly and profound, two sides Byrne interprets flawlessly.
There could be no better person for the role of Maurice than Noble Shropshire. His crotchety mannerisms leave the audience with aches of laughter throughout the show, while he is able capture the intense sadness engulfing the widower. The pain of losing his wife of over 40 years, while facing his own mortality, is translated into his disappointment for his nephew, his only legacy. His shining scene occurs as his impatience for his nephew boils over during a drunken fit. It is at this point that Shropshire breaks the audience’s hearts with his confessions, only to have them roaring again with a flip of a switch.
Tony Ferrieri put together an exquisite set, that is, for a ramshackle rented room. A lumpy twin mattress rests atop pallets next to a sink and a cupboard on the right side of the room, a pullout cot directly opposite of it with a small table and two chairs between them. The room is muddled with junk and no less than three mostly full trash bags lining the walls. The lighting and sound were equally impressive, making it a well-polished production.
This play blends humor and real life tragedy so well and each cast member is able to capture both of these elements in their roles, playing both the comedic and contemplative sides of their characters. The emotional highs and lows keep the audience engaged from start to finish, and like all good plays should, makes audiences reflect on life with a touch of hope to make it go down.
The Night Alive runs through November 1st and tickets can be found here. Our thanks go out to City Theatre for the complimentary press tickets.
Performance Date: Friday, October 16, 2015