Helen Warner/Helen Warner
Ciaran Hinds (l.) and Michael McElhatton in ‘The Night Alive’
Conor McPherson’s moody new drama, “The Night Alive,” focuses on two down-and-out Dubliners who meet by chance.
Sweet, right? Not really.
McPherson is a playwright who embraces life’s dark streaks and mysteries. He has gone there before many times, including in his ghostly dramas “The Weir” and “Shining City.”
McPherson’s new work, which he directs, is intriguing and rich in atmosphere, but not on par with the earlier works.
Fortunately, the production is sublimely acted by five performers, most of whom reprise roles from the Donmar Warehouse production in London.
Each delivers McPherson’s plain-spoken dialogue with an authenticity that makes the story feel fully alive.
Ciaran Hinds anchors the production as the run-down but big-hearted Tommy, a divorced bloke who scrapes by doing odd jobs as a man with a van.
It’s in character for Tommy to rescue Aimee (Caoilfhionn Dunne), a prostitute who’s had her face bloodied by her boyfriend, and bring her home.
She’s a wreck. So is Tommy’s squalid flat. Actually, it’s a downstairs room in a 100-year-old house owned by Tommy’s boozy uncle Maurice (Tony winner Jim Norton).
The play’s slow first hour is mostly awkward small talk as Tommy and Aimee get acquainted, or try to. Tommy’s dim mate Doc (a magnetic Michael McElhatton), a likable loser, keeps intruding.
The story’s tone darkens and pulse quickens with the entrance of Kenneth (Brian Gleeson), Aimee’s scary boyfriend.
As he has done before, McPherson chases the idea of how connections can lead to dangerous places.
When Doc discusses black holes and how they pull everything into them, he’s not really talking about the cosmos. He’s talking about people. That idea isn’t earth-shattering, but it’s true.