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

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. 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.

As I was taught, if it ends with a wedding, then it’s a comedy.

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.

This set is cleverly designed with real running water!

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.

UP NEXT: THE AWFUL TRUTH – According to the ICTC, this play, discovered in the archives of the New York Public Library by ICTC’s Fortunato Pezzimenti, was the inspiration for the 1937 screwball film “The Awful Truth” starring Irene Dunne and Cary Grant. In it, a divorcee with expensive tastes and limited means plans to marry a wealthy Oklahoma oil-man. But before his domineering aunt will accept the “blushing bride,” she must dispel the persistent rumor that her infidelity drove her first husband to divorce her. It runs from April 20 through May 13, 2018.

*HERD OF BUFFALO (Notes on the Rating System)

ONE BUFFALO: This means trouble. A dreadful play, a highly flawed production, or both. Unless there is some really compelling reason for you to attend (i.e. you are the parent of someone who is in it), give this show a wide berth.

TWO BUFFALOS: Passable, but no great shakes. Either the production is pretty far off base, or the play itself is problematic. Unless you are the sort of person who’s happy just going to the theater, you might look around for something else.

THREE BUFFALOS: I still have my issues, but this is a pretty darn good night at the theater. If you don’t go in with huge expectations, you will probably be pleased.

FOUR BUFFALOS: 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.

FIVE BUFFALOS: Truly superb–a rare rating. Comedies that leave you weak with laughter, dramas that really touch the heart. Provided that this is the kind of show you like, you’d be a fool to miss it!

Written by Peter Hall

Peter Hall

Peter Hall continues trying to figure out how "it" all works. For over 20 years, as a producer and program host on WNED Classical (94.5 FM), he's conducted over 1,000 interviews with artists as he asks them to explain, in layman's terms, "what's the big picture here?" These days Peter can be heard regularly on Sunday afternoons from 1 to 5.

On “Theater Talk” (heard Friday mornings at 6:45 and 8:45 a.m. on WBFO 88.7 FM) his favorite question of co-host Anthony Chase is simply "What's goin' on?" As mentioned recently in Buffalo Spree magazine, Peter's "Buffalo Rising reviews are the no-holds barred 'everyman's' take."

A member of Buffalo's Artie Awards Committee, Peter holds a B.A. in Comparative Literature from Columbia University and an M.B.A. from SUNY at Buffalo. For over twenty-five years he was an adjunct professor for Canisius College’s Richard J. Wehle School of Business.

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