Irish playwright Conor McPherson explores the lives of troubled, quirky characters and Honest Pint Theatre Company seeks out plays about them. The company’s staging of McPherson’s “The Night Alive” is a marriage of compelling acting and affecting writing, providing one of the season’s most satisfying productions.
In present-day Dublin, fiftyish Tommy rents a room in his uncle Maurice’s house, the room’s dirty clutter reflecting Tommy’s broken-down life. Tommy spends many lonely days negotiating with his ex-wife to see his two children while working odd jobs and selling pilfered goods with the help of his slow-witted pal, Doc.
One night, Tommy rescues a woman from being beaten, bringing her to his room to recover. Aimee is a prostitute whose fraught relationship with her pimp boyfriend Kenneth puts her at risk. Tommy lets her stay with him, despite objections from Doc and Maurice, until Kenneth suddenly appears with threats and demands.
The 100-minute one-act begins amusingly as Tommy and Doc joke and scheme, incorporating Aimee into their downtrodden but ever hopeful existence. When things turn darker, their quests for better lives become tremendously moving. McPherson’s penchant for including spiritual and otherworldly elements forms a part of the plot’s development.
John Allore, known for his portrayals of troubled souls, has the perfect vehicle in Tommy to exhibit his prodigious talents. He makes us root for Tommy, despite all odds, with his sensitive, moving characterization. David Henderson’s Doc is in the same realm, showing us his loving dependence on Tommy but also his determination to make it on his own.
Samantha Corey’s Aimee is properly torn between a budding relationship with Tommy and her allegiance to Kenneth, given frightening menace and madness by Sean Brosnahan. Mark Phialas’ gruff, complaining Maurice rounds out the fine acting ensemble. Director Susannah Hough draws lively pacing and impressive dimension from them all.
Thomas Mauney’s piled-up, ramshackle setting thrusts the audience into the action, as does his subtly atmospheric lighting. Amy Massey deserves special credit for the amazing number of props on stage, both decorative and practical.
The script has strong language and frank sexual situations, but they’re not gratuitous in this absorbing tale of life’s worst and best possibilities.
What: “The Night Alive,” presented by Honest Pint Theatre Company
Where: North Raleigh Arts and Creative Theatre, 7713-51 Lead Mine Road, Raleigh
When: 8 p.m. Feb. 17-18, 24-25; 3 p.m. Feb. 19
Info: 919-866-0228 or nract.org