Sunday, January 22, 2017

THE NIGHT ALIVE, a downer which confounds @ Dobama

Conor McPherson, author of THE NIGHT ALIVE, now on stage at Dobama Theatre, is considered one of the important new breed of playwrights who delve into the lives of people.  In this case, Irish people, usually Irish men.  He has an eye for loneliness and despair.  His plays often are “meditations on regret, guilt and confusion.”  

Often in McPherson’s writing, and THE NIGHT ALIVE is no exception, he writes in a form of “self-conscious realism, which, weirdly, reveals few truths, universal or particular.”

As the lights come up, Tommy (Joel Hammer), who lives in a large unkempt room in his Uncle’s house, stumbles into his living space with Aimee (Anjanette Hall), a woman who is beaten and bloody.  She tells a tale of having been attacked by a man who was giving her a ride.  As the real story unravels we find that she has been beaten by her boyfriend, Ken (Val Ozlenko), and makes a living as a prostitute.

Tommy, a middle-aged man, separated from his wife and children, is wandering through life without a purpose.  He comes up with crackpot schemes, ekes out a living doing odd jobs, such as disposing debris from others’ property, but is incapable of cleaning up his own life. 

Tommy’s only friend is Doc (David Peacock), who keeps getting into trouble due to his limited abilities.  Like Tommy, Doc is desperate for a purpose in life and a place in the world.

Maurice (Robert Hawkes), the owner of the house, has been in deep depression since his wife died.  He covers up his psychotic swings with alcohol.

Tommy, unrealistically, fantasizes a relationship with Aimee that will give meaning to his life.  In reality, it brings him false hopes, betrayal, an attempted theft, a beating, and being involved in a murder.

The Dobama production, under the direction of Leighann Delorenzo is well performed.  The cast is universally excellent.  Joel Hammer, as is his custom, well-textures his performance as Tommy as a complex, confounded, frustrated man, with little meaning and purpose in his life.

Anjanette Hall develops a clear characterization of Aimee who uses her body as a tool to get through her desperate existence.   

Robert Hawkes gives no doubt of Maurice’s depressive state and Val Kolenko is properly brutish as the psychotic Kenneth, Aimee’s abusive boyfriend.

In his Cleveland debut, David Peacock, who has a long history of world-wide theatrical training and experience, shows strong acting abilities and comic timing skill in an astounding performance as Doc.   Bravo!

CAPSULE JUDGEMENT:   THE NIGHT ALIVE, which is about the lives of a few lost souls, gets a strong staging.  Unfortunately, the play is about people who don’t engender a reason to be cared about. 

THE NIGHT ALIVE runs through February 12, 2017 at Dobama Theatre.  Call 216-932-3396 or for tickets.