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Time Out Theater Review: "The Night Alive"

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Celebrated Irish playwright and director Conor McPherson returns to the New York stage with his latest work "The Night Alive". Contributing critic David Cote of Time Out New York filed the following review.

Irish writer-director Conor McPherson tends to give his plays supernatural touches: Ghosts, vampires, even Satan himself appeared in his last play on Broadway, "The Seafarer." In "The Night Alive", which comes to the Atlantic Theater from London’s Donmar Warehouse, it’s all pretty much realistic and linear. And yet in this touching work, there’s still something otherworldly.

Tommy, played by Ciarán Hinds, is a down-on-his-luck divorcé who lives on the first floor of his Uncle Maurice’s house. To make ends meet, barely, Tommy does odd jobs or peddles items at pubs with the help of his slow-witted pal, Doc, played by Michael McElhatton.

When the play begins, Tommy has come to the aid of Aimee, played by Caoilfhionn Dunne, a young woman whose nose was bashed by her boyfriend. Tommy takes Aimee homes, cleans her up and lets her crash there for a few days. Periodically, Uncle Maurice, played by McPherson stalwart Jim Norton, comes downstairs to disapprove of the squalor or lord it over his feckless nephew.

Over the course of a few scenes, these lonely souls get to know each other, until a fifth character steps in. This is Kenneth, Aimee’s psychotic boyfriend, played by Brian Gleeson.

The actors, under McPherson’s steady and emotionally resonant direction, are marvelous, delivering portraits of people on the margins with humor and fine texture. As usual, McPherson shows himself a master of atmosphere and understated poetry, as the play slowly but unmistakably takes on a metaphysical dimension, especially by its final, mysterious moments.

Salvation and grace have always been major themes in McPherson’s work, which conjures a religious aura without moralizing. Now that’s magical.

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