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Review: THE NIGHT ALIVE at Quotidian Theatre Company

Conor McPherson is a hugely popular contemporary playwright based in Dublin. THE NIGHT ALIVE is his most recent theatrical contribution lately nominated for a Laurence Olivier Award for Best Play. His work has been lauded as otherworldly and weird.

The Writer's Center stage is the best kind of intimate venue and I happily chose a seat in the front row mere feet from the stage.

To the casual observer, THE NIGHT ALIVE is merely a familiar, simple tale told well. For me, THE NIGHT ALIVE is certainly sanguine, at times ethereal yet firmly embedded in the real world. Beautiful moments of reflection and joy interspersed amidst the violence and heartache of THE NIGHT ALIVE.

Tommy (Matthew Vaky) is a middle-aged man down on his luck, estranged from his wife and children. A veritable freeloader, he lives a lifestyle bordering on squalid. THE NIGHT ALIVE is boxed within the garden flat of the Edwardian home near Phoenix Park in Dublin owned by Tommy's crotchety Uncle Maurice (Joe Palka).

If I've painted a portrait of a hopeless man, please forgive me. In the first scene, Tommy enters attending to a bleeding girl named Aimee (Chelsea Mayo) to whom he provides sanctuary. Tommy's spacy employee Doc (David Dubov) completes the happy trio at the heart of THE NIGHT ALIVE. Doc's reliance on Tommy is a constant source of tension within the flat. The tale takes a bloody turn with the arrival of Aimee's violent boyfriend-pimp, Kenneth (Grant Cloyd).

Vaky's Tommy is a bumbling car crash of a man, a half-hearted conman with a big heart who has been relegated to the periphery for sins of which we are only half-aware. His dynamic portrayal of Tommy provokes sympathy for a somewhat icky character, a genuine anti-protagonist.

Dubov's Doc appears to exist on another plane within his own head. He evokes calm amidst the storm, a prophetic presence onstage. He is the kind of character you just want to hug so you can see a smile on his face.

Cloyd is downright creepy in his dynamic, portrayal of the pimp Kenneth. He recites his lines with a lyrical intensity that I felt distinguished his character.

Mayo is a masculine Aimee. She holds her own against an energetic, all-male cast. As Maurice, Palka is a passable old man, knocked sideways by the death of his wife and powerless to stop the shenanigans occurring in his own home.

Irish accents are employed to varying degrees of success throughout this production. I am of the opinion that no Irish accent is always preferable to a half-hearted or just plain bad Irish accent.

I took great pleasure in the meticulous set by Set, Costume and Properties Designer Jack Sbarbori. Hundreds of elements make up the set for THE NIGHT ALIVE, which includes dozens of Western and James Bond novels, vintage Marvin Gaye records, clothes galore and creaky camp beds. Of special note are the Tate Lyle brand bags of sugar from Tesco, the Tayto brand crisps box and the coin-operated electric meter. My husband and I lived in Glasgow, Scotland for 18 months a few years ago so let me assure you, coin-operated electric meters are still a painful reality.

Sbarbori is also Director and Sound Designer. The stage direction emphasizes the mundane details of everyday life: going to the bathroom, washing your hair, cleaning up for a guest, etc. A spectral light twinkles in the sky in-between scenes. In this world there is no fixed concept of time or space. This intermingling of the mundane and the otherworldly is a persistent theme throughout THE NIGHT ALIVE.

Sbarbori's hands-on-role has resulted in an exceptionally cohesive production. E. Lyndia Bruce is the Assistant Director and Stage Manager, Ed Moser is the Sound Coordinator, Eric Davisin is the Booth Technician and Jonathan Ezra Rubin is Fight Director.

I walked into The Writer's Center last Saturday cold and unfamiliar with the works of THE NIGHT ALIVE playwright Conor McPherson or Quotidian Theatre Company. Walking out, I was a happier person.

On October 30th at 7pm there will be a staged reading of Eugene O'Neill's HUGHIE and a silent auction to benefit Quotidian Theatre Company. Tickets can be purchased here.

THE NIGHT ALIVE runs until November 20th, 2016 at Quotidian Theatre Company at The Writer's Center located at 4508 Walsh St, Bethesda, MD, 20815. For tickets, call the box office at (301) 838-3006 Ext. 1 or visit here. Discounted tickets available for students and senior.

Running Time: 1 hour and 45 minutes, no intermission

Photo Credit: Chelsea Mayo (Aimee), Matthew Vaky (Tommie), David Dubov (Doc). Photo by St.Johnn Blondelle.

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