Conor McPherson’s “The Night Alive” is a play about darkness. The darkness that causes us to stumble, to lose our way. The darkness that disables us and makes us dependent. The darkness that makes us bitter and distances us from others. The darkness that makes us want to run away from facing our lives. And the darkness that sometimes consumes us and fills us up. But it is also a play about light. The light we seek and find in each other. The light of a mind that is slow and simple. The light of the memories of a time long forgotten.The light of the hopes we have for the future. And the light that awaits us at the end of the tunnel.
We meet the five characters as they are stumbling in the dark. Tommy, a man with an unsteady career as an odd-job guy, is divorced, distanced from his kids and seems to live an aimless life. Uncle Maurice has turned his guilt into fastidiousness and alcoholism. Aimee is a part-time prostitute who is trying to get away from Kenneth, her abusive boyfriend-cum-pimp. Kenneth is clearly having trouble dealing with his mind that is dark and lonely. Doc,Tommy’s slow-witted co-worker and my favorite character in the play, lives with his sister and is thrown out repeatedly by her boyfriend. The neglected state of Tommy’s room mirrors the messy lives the five characters lead.
And yet there is a beauty in this mess and the actors of the Hyde Park Theater under the able direction of Ken Webster, have portrayed it wonderfully. Tom Green finds the generosity in the irritable Maurice. There is a playful innocence in Aimee that Jessica Hughes slowly reveals. Joey Hood uncovers a genuinely troubled soul hidden under the satanic-evil mind. Ken Webster delicately handles the dualities in Tommy; a protector-cum-lover of Aimee and exploitative boss-cum-true friend of Doc. And finally the simplicity, brilliance and affectionate nature of the slow-witted Doc is captured so beautifully by Robert Fisher, I just wanted to get up and give him a big hug!
Two moments in the play stand out as examples of ethereal beauty on stage. One is when Doc, talks about a black hole. The words are like a scientific definition, but their placement in the play and the delivery makes them sound sublime and lyrical. Another one is a magnificent vignette where Tommy, Aimee and Doc break into an impromptu dance to the radio playing Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On”. There was such positive energy flowing on stage that I am sure it brought a smile to everyone in the audience. The choice of the song couldn’t have been more apt. What is going on ? Aren’t we all wondering about that and trying to find our way through the darkness. But such is the power of great art that it enables you to see the light, whether in form of a dance or a song or a black hole definition!!