To paraphrase a line from this play by Gavin Kostick, after getting a good sorting out from a Cuban, you usually get a bronze Olympic boxing medal. The main character and protagonist in Fight Night, Dan, doesn’t come close to the Olympics. And at the close of the play, we don’t really learn with absolute certainty if he ever will. Time is against him for one. And the play ends in much the same way as the original Rocky movie that is cited by the central character. But Dan’s ancestors and his bro have done very well with the boxing. His problem is trying to live up to expectations.
It’s a great, tight monologue, at about fifty minutes in length. Aonghus Og MacAnally carries the burdens of a guy who has a lot to live up to with a terrific performance – and we learn as Dan starts his new family that there are cycles of both perfectionism and dysfunction that ought to be broken.
If you come away from the play thinking that maybe it’s more than okay to just coast through life at a level of mediocrity, then the message of the show is a positive one. And it’s positive because MacAnally makes Dan such a likeable character. He plays him with an authenticity that could’ve been undermined with mimicry for the other characters – for example, Dan’s mother is quoted once or twice. The posh voice MacAnally puts on for these moments is made real by the fact that his vocabulary remains consistent with Dan, rather than with his better spoken mother. The “impersonations” of other characters are equally deftly handled. Dan is also made real through his likability, in spite of all the justifications and his rationalisations. His failures make him an attractive and endearing character. And his significant other, Michelle, feels the same way.
The nuances of family are covered beautifully in a script that appears – deceptively – to be just about the boxing. MacAnally conveys these subtleties with consummate skill, to the point where we may sometimes question his reliability as a narrator – just as he questions himself as a man, while we learn what brought Dan to this point, and why he feels that he must face down his demons – and a fella from Galway.
If the play ever goes up anywhere ever again, it’s well worth a look.
All photos courtesy of RISE Productions.