“Character driven and what characters!” – 4 Buffalos! – Peter Hall, buffalo rising

THE NIGHT ALIVE at Irish Classical Theatre is character driven, and what characters these down at the heels mortals be.

by Peter Hall, March 14, 2018, 7:55 am

THE BASICS: THE NIGHT ALIVE, a dark comedy by Conor McPherson presented by the Irish Classical Theatre Company, directed by Brian Cavanagh, starring Vincent O’Neill, Brian Mysliwy, Cassie Gorniewicz, Kevin Craig, and Adam Yellen runs through March 25, Thursdays and Fridays at 7:30 p.m., Saturdays at 3 & 7:30, Sundays at 2 at ICTC’s home in the Andrews Theatre, 625 Main Street (853-ICTC). Full service bar. Bar snacks. www.irishclassicaltheatre.com Runtime: 2-1/2 hours with one intermission.

THUMBNAIL SKETCH: Not terribly different from Act I of Puccini’s opera LA BOHEME, we meet a down on his luck divorced Dubliner, Tommy, who returns one night to his disheveled “bed sit” with a younger woman, Aimee, all bloodied, whom he has rescued from an altercation, and he cares for her. We then meet his helper on odd jobs (Tommy owns a van you see) “Doc” who is somewhat “delayed” and Maurice, Tommy’s crusty uncle with a heart of gold who owns the house where his nephew rents. Whether or not the playwright Conor McPherson believes in God, he does believe in the devil, who, in the guise of Kenneth, makes a brief appearance.

THE PLAYERS, THE PLAY, AND THE PRODUCTION: Opening on March 2, the Irish Classical Theatre was first out of the gate in what has proven to be an extraordinarily rich month of theater at over a dozen venues all across Buffalo. Now, to be sure, some in the audience sitting near me were baffled as to how THE NIGHT ALIVE could be considered part of ICTC’s promised “season of comedy” but I did laugh out loud several times and, as I was taught, if it ends with a wedding, then it’s a comedy. SPOILER ALERT: This does NOT end in a wedding, per se, but it could, it so totally could. One thing’s for sure: you’ll be talking or at least thinking about the ending for weeks after you see this play.

Brian Mysliwy who plays Tommy can be a bit “over the top” for my taste, but Tommy’s life is such a mess that Mysliwy’s crazed style works perfectly here. He’s both self-centered and caring; he’s living on the edge but always interested in what’s next. Mysliwsy’s is one of the great performances this season, on any stage.

Contrasting to crazed, Cassie Gorniewicz’s performances are usually understated and very “normal.” Here, as Aimee she provides a nice balance to Mysliwy, and she’s believable in the way that woman can be more accepting of those circumstances in life that drive men to want to fix things and end up behaving badly. Aimee is no earth mother, but she’s been around the block once or twice and knows how the world works. She’s a mess, too, though, and can cause problems just by being there.

Kevin Craig does a fine job as the brain addled Doc (“that’s short for Brian”) who lives in a world that is constantly about five minutes behind the rest of us. He is very loyal to Tommy. And Vincent O’Neill, as the aged Uncle Maurice, uses his mime training to excellent advantage as the snoopy landlord. Making a brief appearance as the troublemaker Kenneth, Adam Yellen with his boyish face may have been slightly miscast. I like my bad guys on the skinny “lean and hungry” side.

As it always does, a Paul Bostaph set says it all, and once again this set is cleverly designed with a kitchen area in the middle of the stage (built low enough so as not to obscure sight lines) including a sink with a Bostaph signature feature – real running water! And what a mess it all is, with crap strewn everywhere.

And as he always does as Sound Designer, Tom Makar puts you in the scenes and holds you there, ably assisted by Lighting Designer (et. al.) Brian Cavanagh.

If you, as I, were itching for more than drawing room comedies and historic Irish dramas, this should be your cup (albeit a dirty cup cleaned up with a bit of spit and the corner of an undershirt) of tea.

*HERD OF BUFFALO (Rating System)
FOUR BUFFALOS (out of five):  Both the production and the play are of high caliber. If the genre/content are up your alley, I would make a real effort to attend.