The Night Alive, written by Conor McPherson and directed by Tony Kelly, is a kind of nativity story focusing on compassion and kindness although the beginning seems like it’s anything but that. The play starts by providing a glimpse into the slice of anguished lives of a few lost souls and faint but clear glimmers of hope appear by the end.
Tommy (Randall King) rents a room in his uncle Maurice’s (Julian Lopez-Morillas) old Edwardian house in Dublin. Uncle Maurice lives upstairs and though critical of Tommy, he also loves him. Tommy’s friend, Doc (Lawrence Radecker) is Tommy’s little sidekick who also frequently sleeps in the room and helps Tommy with odd jobs. They scrape by from day to day work and live amidst junk-filled squalor of the room. As the play begins, one night Tommy rescues a young prostitute, Aimee (Allison F. Rich) and bring her home to get her cleaned up. Aimee has no place to go and she ends up staying, for that night and another and another.
Tommy has been estranged from his wife and kids and does not have anything significant to look forward to in life. But a sort of friendship develops between Tommy and Aimee and it brings a little sunshine into his otherwise dark life. Friendship also sprouts between Aimee and other men. Doc is a little slow and at first he is not quite approving of the loss of his sleeping place and of his friend’s attention. Uncle Maurice is also somewhat disapproving at first. Deadpan humor while all these lost souls are trying to find their bearings in a situation of change and chaos is often heart-breaking but things start to get resolved and just as there is emergence of hope for a kinder gentler life, the story takes a turn.
Aimee’s ex-boyfriend Kenneth (Jonathan Rhys Williams) comes looking for her and completely disrupts their lives. Is that not how life often unfolds for people with lower means and resources, and keeps them imprisoned in a vicious circle where while they continue to live, life in a true sense seems to emerge every now and then but continues to stay out of their reach? For this group, as life unfolds in the moment, as they live without dreams, goals and a future, their little attempts at humor seem like attempts to grab fleeting happiness, whenever they can. Doc once brings a book titled “How to survive life-threatening situations”, and reads from it. As the audience laughs at totally non-helpful suggestions outlined in the book, a question lingers, how does one survive life that has nothing to offer?
If however, the ending is good, rest does not matter. Play ends ambiguously, albeit at a place where a little hint of hope, a faint flash of faith emerges. Sometimes love and kindness may just be enough to open a future of possibilities.
The Night Alive is playing at www.thestage.org in San Jose till December 11, 2016.