ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Last year FUSION Theatre graced Albuquerque with a wonderful production of Enda Walsh’s “The New Electric Ballroom,” a forceful reminder that the tiny island of Ireland continues to produce some of the most exciting and important drama.
This year FUSION has again brought a contemporary Irish master to Albuquerque, and again the experience is revelatory. In Conor McPherson’s “The Night Alive” the mundane, ordinary and drab is shot through at odd moments with the transcendent and numinous, which is all the more powerful for its juxtaposition with the banal, and for its unpredictability and evanescence.
The play begins when Tommy, a lonely and slovenly middle aged man estranged from his wife and children, brings home a badly beaten young woman (Aimee) to nurse and heal. The biblical worldview that suffuses so much of McPherson’s drama — not least his sublime 2006 play, “The Seafarer” — is apparent right away in this contemporary rendition of the story of the Good Samaritan.
As it happens, Tommy is largely responsible for the “disabled” Doc also, although his ability to maintain his patience and continue to care for the needy Doc is tested through the course of the play.
McPherson counters Tommy’s heeding of the gospel call to neighbor love with the other man in Aimee’s life, Kenneth, a satanic figure of pure wanton destruction, hatred and violence.
Like so many of the Irish masters, McPherson’s play is lyrical, suffused with pathos and compassion, and very funny. A simple retelling of the plot can only disfigure the artistry, and spoil the shocking moments that appear amid the more banal yet entertaining banter of the rich characters that McPherson has drawn and that the talented cast brings to life.