The Night Alive at the Atlantic Theater Company, New York

Exterior of The Atlantic Theater Company on 336 West 20th St in New York showing the poster for Conor McPherson's The Night Alive (Image source: Loretto Leary)

Exterior of The Atlantic Theater Company on 336 West 20th St in New York showing the poster for Conor McPherson’s The Night Alive (Image source: Loretto Leary)

Tin pot, on-the-spot caregiver, Tommy says it best. “You can’t save everybody,” least of all himself it would seem.

Ciarán Hinds, as Tommy in Conor McPherson’s new play, The Night Alive, playing at the Atlantic Theater, lives day to day doing odd jobs and barely making enough to get by. He isn’t morose about his meager existence. If he died suddenly, “People would be upset, probably,” he says. Tommy needs to feel needed. Always thinking about others, caring for them, in his own tin-pot way.

Tommy lives in his Uncle Maurice’s house in Dublin. Separated from his wife, Tommy tries by phone to help discipline his teenage son and daughter who won’t listen to him. We should dislike him, but we don’t. There’s the possibility that we can identify with him, because we all need to feel needed. He really isn’t a bad man, as the press release for the play tells us.

Upon witnessing a girl being beaten, Tommy brings her to his place, more hovel than place. Aimee, Caoilfhionn Dunne, is a deeply bottled up mess of emotions. She’s been through hell and back. Tommy takes care of her, that seems to be his nature; on-the-spot caregiver, not just with Aimee, but with Doc, inebriated Uncle Maurice, and he takes care of Kenneth too.

Tommy comes in through the window of his room, assisting a bleeding and shaken Aimee by holding her hand as she enters. “Are ya alright?,” he asks her. Tommy is capable of offering a helping hand, unlike Uncle Maurice who blames himself for the death of his wife Mary. He didn’t hold her hand and she slipped on the ice. Tommy is a reminder that even in the most humble and kip-like hovels of humanity there exists kindness in the form of down and outs who offer each other a helping hand, sometimes it might cost €40. (That’s a pun. You will have to go see the play to understand it.)

Doc, Tommy’s helper, is about ten minutes, correction, five to seven minutes behind the general population in mental processing. Aimee tends to jeer Doc for his simplistic nature and views, maybe it makes her feel better about her situation. Maurice offers warnings and threats and reminders that he and Mary raised Tommy.

Yet it is simplistic Doc who ends up explaining what a black hole is, and gives us the closing lines of the play. Pay close attention to his words and what is happening on stage, because this is where people get into debates, according to the New York Times, about McPherson’s play. This is not a simple, happy ending. There’s more to it.

Ciarán Hinds is the glue that holds everything and everyone together as Tommy. He is a superb actor. Look at his face when he rises from the bed, and thinks about what Doc has told him about Amy on the steps of the Custom House.

Caoilfhionn Dunne gave a fantastic performance as the lost Aimee as she deals with her own dark history.

Doc, played by Michael McElhatton, was my personal favorite in the play. He lives by the KISS rule: Keep it simple, stupid.

Uncle Maurice, Jim Norton, “All mass does is throw ya back out onto the pavement,” gave a simply brilliant performance. It is hard to take your eyes off him when he is on the stage.

Brian Gleeson is unnerving as the strung out, malicious, vengeance bent drug addict, Kenneth.

Myself and the very talented and very kind Ciaran Hinds after the play. (Image source: Loretto Leary)

Myself and the very talented and very kind Ciarán Hinds after the play. (Image source: Loretto Leary)

At one point in the play Tommy, Doc and Amy dance to a song playing on the radio, “What’s going on?” At the end of the play that’s the question we all tried to answer. Is it a new beginning for Tommy? Is this Tommy’s own personal heaven? Listen very carefully to Doc’s parting words and watch Tommy’s behavior in the last few minutes of the play, and you decide. If ever there was a play open to interpretation, this is it.

Worth seeing? Without a doubt.

© Loretto Leary 2013

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5 thoughts on “The Night Alive at the Atlantic Theater Company, New York

  1. Excellent review. I couldn’t agree more about Mr. Hinds/Tommy being at the heart of this play. He is like the star around which all the other characters have their orbits. Can’t wait to see it again. (And lucky you to get a picture with Mr. H.!)

    • Thanks Linnet. My son was in attendance with us and he wanted to get a picture with Bishop Brennan, Jim Norton from Father Ted, and Mance Rayder, Ciaran Hinds in Game of Thrones. So determined was he that we waited outside and I had a lovely chat with Jim Norton about The Eclipse, and how he doesn’t mind being remembered first and foremost for his performance as Bishop Brennan. Ciaran Hinds was very kind, talked to my son, then asked me how long I’d been here (in the US) We were in a rush to either grab a taxi or subway back to Grand Central as the next train was last train home for us. Thanks for commenting and have a great trip to New York.

      • Great story–I have yet to watch Father Ted, but I greatly admire Jim Norton. He has an amazingly powerful voice for a man his size, and knows how to use it! Wish I could have seen him in “The Seafarer.” Not to mention Mr. Hinds!

  2. Nice Review Loretto I particularly liked the interplay betwixt Doc ( call me Brian?) and Ciarán Hinds Tommy, His lack of understanding of what a ‘soft loan’ entailed and his ‘black hole’ theory. Similarly, the interplay betwixt Aimee and Tommy when he was observing the damage done to her face ‘OOH it’s bad’ and the switching from side to side. The constant ‘drip’ of the comic one-liner, immaculately sounded by Ciarán. Humour amidst the debris of life. The musical interlude of Marvin Gaye’s ‘What’s Going On”, at once, uplifting, with a signifying message ~ ‘Who are they judge us?’
    With echoes of `Babylon’ playing in the background, is the emphasis, on the personal, subjective understanding of one’s purpose in life? The ending is ‘open’ to interpretation~ I know what I think.
    There is much to ruminate over in this marvellous play and one thing Conor McPherson does so well is to make us consider the possibilities.

    Lovely photo with Yer Man and I ‘ll bet your boy was thrilled.

    • Thanks for reading and commenting Dorothy. “Yer Man with the Fadja” was a very nice person. And I was mightily impressed with Jim Norton, great actor and was happy to chat to us for a few minutes as well. So my son is delighted that he got his picture taken with Bishop Brennan and Mance Rayder. The funny thing is, both my husband and my son were really shocked at how much Jim Norton resembled my father-in-law. I couldn’t see it. A little bit maybe, but they really thought he looked like him.

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