(This review is written by American-Statesman freelance arts critic Cate Blouke)
Irish playwright Conor McPherson is renowned for infusing his plays with a touch of the supernatural. There’s something eerie in his work that makes the story and the characters come alive in a way that steps just outside of reality. His poetic dialogue and piercing insight give his scripts a beauty that we don’t often find in contemporary plays.
That being said, the nuance and subtlety (and fundamental Irish-ness) of McPherson’s work make it particularly challenging to do well.
Hyde Park Theatre’s production of “The Night Alive,” running through Aug 8, isn’t quite polished enough to pull it off.
The cast is working hard, and each actor does achieve a few moments of intense emotional focus throughout the play.
As Maurice, the lonely widower living upstairs, Tom Green briefly connects us with the anguish over losing his wife. As the somewhat simple sidekick (Doc), Robert Fisher gives us a glimpse of the depths beneath the surface. And Joey Hood transitions deftly into and out of the mood swings of a sociopath.
But overall, the energy wanes, and the elements of not-quite-reality are difficult to absorb.
The faltering Irish accents and the relative flatness of the performances (for the most part) ultimately make for a dull and confusing 90 minutes.
That’s surprising, given the critical reception of the London and New York productions of a play that features domestic violence, disability and murder.
Tommy (Ken Webster) is a washed up, almost divorcee, living in the downstairs flat of his uncle’s house. He’s also seemingly incapable of taking care of himself – living in what can only be described as squalor – yet he somehow ends up the self-appointed and reluctant guardian of various social misfits.
Tommy seems to stumble around in life, happening on a sort of damsel in distress before the show starts, and bringing a bedraggled and blood-spattered Aimee (Jess Hughes) on stage and into his life as the play begins. We slowly learn about Aimee’s sordid past alongside the troubled lives of the three men, and you can hear quality of McPherson’s script, even if it doesn’t quite come out in the production.
“The Night Alive” continues through Aug. 8. www.hydeparktheatre.org