Monday, October 31, 2016

Inside Look into Quotidian Theatre Company Production of The Night Alive

-          By Catherine Gregoire

 The Night Alive runs through November 20, 2016. Members of The Writer's Center get a 50% discount. Get tickets here.

Jack Sbarbori is the founder of the Quotidian Theatre Company and a long-time friend of The Writer’s Center. It was a delight to sit down with him and to chat about Quotidian’s new rendition of The Night Alive by Conor McPherson. Sbarbori is a passionate fan of McPherson, so much so that he’s directed nine of his plays over the years. 

It isn't surprising, then, that he decided to take on The Night Alive, which is McPhereson’s newest work, a tantalizingly dark drama about love and revenge. In the dialogue below, Sbarbori’s passion for directing and appreciation for McPherson’s skill, are palpable.

TWC: What is it about Conor McPherson's work that attracts you?

JS: He writes plays that are so honest and real about the human condition. For the most part, he talks about how flawed human nature is and how we need to stop and consider things. There’s such a reality to his work. I was first attracted to theater by playwright Horton Foote, who although has an entirely different way of writing, also gets down to the real parts of the human condition. The funny thing is their styles are entirely different, so much so that when we did our first play by [McPherson] my wife and I thought, “Oh, this is going to be tough on the audience.” I’m not saying I recommend to people interested in directing or starring in shows stick to one playwright…but I can’t help myself (chuckles).

TWC: What would you say this particular production captures both in accordance with McPherson’s style and beyond it?

JS: The reason I’m so anxious to present it is that it’s a unique play by McPherson in that it’s, and this is odd to say, it’s not as easy for the patrons to have a full understanding of as most of his work. There’s such a reward when you’re listening to it and you’re trying to understand what exactly is happening. It’s an unusual play because, though McPherson calls himself an atheist, in so many of his plays and especially in this one, it’s clear that there is a surge of “What is God about? Is there an afterlife? If there is, what happens?” It’s such a reward to watch what he’s doing with that. 

Years ago, Horton Foote used to say that the plays he loved the most were the ones that in intermission he could just walk among the patrons and listen to them discuss and argue and find different spins on what exactly is happening and why they happen. That’s another way Conor McPherson’s work is so much like Horton’s. I doubt that, especially in The Night Alive, the people would have the exact same understanding or feeling of what they saw, why they saw it, and what it means. With all the [McPherson’s] plays I can’t say, “this is his best one,” but this one is special. I’ve been building the set for two months now because I wanted to get it just right, and I’m very fortunate to have actors that are just perfect for the roles.

TWC: Has your approach to this production differed from past productions?

JS: Well, I had the time because I usually direct a little more and this year I didn’t. I had the opportunity to work on this particular play for probably a year and a half. Of course the beginning parts were not that adventurous, but I feel fortunate that that’s what I want to do. Luckily my wife agrees (chuckles). I feel very blessed to do something I’m passionate about.

TWC: What do you hope audiences will take away from this production?

JS: That they enjoyed it, and that with this particular play they don’t have to have a complete set of understandings as I did, but that they understood what he was doing. He was exploring things to try to find out what’s happening. Marvin Gaye had a song called “What’s Going On,” which is still popular in the Oldies category. It’s basically “what’s going on?” and it’s repeated a lot in the music and the actors happen to say that just randomly throughout the play too. They don’t quite understand it, the audience doesn’t quite understand it, and it’s sort of a search of “what’s going on.” I had to get the rights to do that song in the play, but it’s hard to do the play without it.

You know . . . it’s so nice that we found this place [The Writer's Center] back in 1989. We just appreciate the opportunity to do what we love.

The Writer’s Center has the honor of hosting Jack’s The Night Alive from October 21 through November 20, 2016. Whether you’re a Quotidian regular or you’re new to theater, you won’t want to miss it!

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