Review: 'The Night Alive' has powerhouse performances

Review: 'The Night Alive' has powerhouse performances

Playwright/poet Conor McPherson has a knack for exposing humanness in his writings; from the sort of highs to the abysmal lows, mankind's glorious imperfections are celebrated, and I can think of no better venue for this type of theatrical experience than the intimate black box of wonder known as the Celebration Company at the Station Theatre.

The company begins its 45th season with McPherson's "The Night Alive," a poignant tragi-comedy that follows the misadventures of Tommy, a semi-hoarding odd jobs man, and his best mate and business partner, Doc. Tommy, in an almost custodial way, explains that Doc's thinking is always a good five to 10 minutes behind everybody else's and that's why he can't hold a proper job.

A funny thing happened one night when Tommy went out for a bag of chips ... he came home instead with a bruised and bloodied waif whom he rescued from an attack. (The rescue caused him to drop his chips — such is Tommy's kind of luck.)

With awkward sweetness, Tommy, (the ever splendid Gary Ambler) tends to the young woman's wounds and offers her tea. Slowly ... oh so slowly ... the two begin a dance of dysfunction that works for them, as Doc, a frequent overnight guest, worries about his lodging options now that she's arrived.

Tommy's Uncle Maurice — a grieving widower — rents Tommy a room in his home, but he's ashamed of how he lives. He regularly voices his disapproval and warns the men to stay out of his garden.

Tommy, Doc and the young woman, Aimee, slide into a sort of family dynamic, enjoying chips and dancing to Marvin Gaye's "What's Goin' On?" and you wonder with them as they try to answer the question; what IS going on?

Suddenly, without warning, their world is shattered by the arrival of the mercurial Kenneth, Aimee's abusive boyfriend, who explodes in the tiny room, and Doc, the only one home at the time, absorbs the full weight of his wrath.

In addition to Mr. Ambler, this production, with insightful direction from Kay Bohannon Holley, features powerhouse performances by Lindsey Gates-Markel as Aimee, David Butler as Maurice, Jim Kotowski as Doc and Mathew Green as Kenneth. Rounding out the ensemble, of sorts, is a perfect set design by Nicholas James Schwartz, accented by top-notch lighting by Jesse Folks.

The author advises, "You have to look at it in the framework of the universe and eternity ... We sort of live in a giant mystery we don't understand."

Tricia Stiller serves as director for the McLean County Diversity Project's Theatre Program, the Miller Park Summer Theatre Program and the Penguin Project McLean County. She can be contacted at

Topics (1):Theater