We gave it a B-
Throughout his relatively brief but prolific playwriting career in such edge-of-your-seat thrillers as Dublin Carol, Shining City, St. Nicholas, The Weir, and The Seafarer, 42-year-old Conor McPherson has conjured ghosts, vampires, spirits, and even the devil himself. Strange, then, that there?s a dearth of paranormal activity in The Night Alive, now receiving its American premiere at Off Broadway?s Atlantic Theater Company.
The single-room set — a hoarder?s paradise littered with pizza boxes, papers, and dirty dishes — certainly appears to be possessed. And from the look on the face of the greasy-haired, soft-bellied Tommy?s (Ciarán Hinds), it smells like someone died in the loo. But The Night Alive proves a decidedly earthbound exercise. In this rather commonplace tale, ne?er-do-well slob Tommy rescues hooker-with-a-heart-of-brass Aimee (Caoilfhionn Dunne) from her abusive boyfriend (Brian Gleeson). Tommy?s slow-witted pal Doc (Michael McElhatton) becomes the third wheel, while his landlord and uncle, Maurice (McPherson vet Jim Norton), looks on disapprovingly and drunkenly.
There?s one genuinely surprising twist, but it?s more misplaced than mystic — and quite out of character for a Conor McPherson play. (Let?s just say it?s more befitting a Martin McDonagh work.) The characters, even while they knock about in the same crummy bedsit, hardly seem to exist in the same sphere: Maurice should be holding court on a barstool. Tommy is more protective than he might appear, doling out helpful bits of advice like ?Don?t ever get into sniffing glue, Aimee!? and ?Don?t eat them dog biscuits!? And Aimee hardly says a word…who is she? The Night Alive?s ending is what?s most likely to puzzle audiences, but the events of the previous 90 minutes were far more baffling to me — notwithstanding the Marvin Gaye dance break. B?
(Tickets: AtlanticTheater.org or 866-811-4111)