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A CurtainUp Review
Port Authority

Port Authority
The Atlantic Theater Company Brings Conor McPherson's Triple Monologue to Off Broadway

. . .there was just something stopping us talking about each other properly. To each other. Fear? Bewilderment? disbelief maybe? . . . That two people couldn't have found each other this easily. We didn't trust it I suppose. So that was that.—Kevin.

The controllers that live in my head are filing this away as 'Moronic moments to live over and over again' — Dermot.

Regret and worry. . .when you get to my age, you give up on them because they don't help anything—Joe.
Port Authority
Jim Norton in Port Authority
(Photo: Doug Hamilton)
It's a wonder New Yorkers aren't all talking with a bit of a brogue, given that some play by one of Ireland's favorite scribes is usually gracing one stage or another. During the past two years, the plays of Conor McPherson, whose career we've been following for a decade, have been given well-received Broadway productions.

Both Shining City and The Seafarer (see review links below) marked a departure from the monologue storytelling with which McPherson has made his name. I look forward to more of McPherson in this more full-bodied, interactive style. In the meantime, Port Authority now having its New York premiere at the Atlantic Theater in Chelsea (though it precedes The Seafarer) is a chance to see a McPherson play that represents his literary roots. Like This Lime Tree Bower it's a triple monologue. The only connection between its three generations of Dubliners is that they're all on stage together and that their stories are about various forms of regret — unfulfilled love for the youngest and oldest, and not being a contender for the one at mid-life.

The production starts off with a major plus point in that Jim Norton, who's become one of McPherson's best interpreters (he was in the Atlantic's production of Dublin Carol as well as The Seafarer), is on hand to play Joe the oldest storyteller. Joe's romantic regrets are triggered by the arrival of a package from the love that never was.

Brian D'Arcy James is also an experienced McPherson's monologist, having starred in The Good Thief (see link). Both he and John Gallagher are singers as well as actors. (On the Monday before I saw him as Dermot at the Atlantic Theater, D'Arcy James spent Port Authority's dark night giving a great performance in the latest Broadway by the Year concert at Town Hall. Gallagher, of course, created the role of Moritz in Spring Awakening on this very stage). Since Irish story telling is not unlike spoken music, the two are well cast as the two younger men. As portrayed by D'Arcy James, Dermot is just the sort of loser to stumble into an opportunity that's sure to turn into a misadventure. Gallagher's Kevin is endearingly awkward and unprepared to deal with his new life away from his parents' home. While they make this a three-star cast, it's Norton, with his born to the brogue clarity, whose star shines brightest. His Joe is also the most engaging and sympathetic character.

When Port Authority premiered in London in 2001, the playwright himself directed it, something he does fairly often. Thus, except for Jim Norton reprising his role, this is a brand new production, with a New York design team and a new director, Henry Wishcamper, in charge of orchestrating the men's alternating front and center narration. He does an excellent job of bringing out the play's mix of humor and pathos, and making the most of the minimal staging.

While the wistful monologues have their share of laughs, this isn't the sort of entertainment to have you falling off your seat or gripping its edge. Think of it as a ninety minute walk through Dublin, visitng a group of Dubliners who have nothing in common except a vague yearning for might-have-beens.

Since Lizzie Loveridge astutely summed up what connects the alternating monologues and how the stories achieve McPherson's usual authenticity, I'll let her review below double as an assessment of the play's current permutation. Just scroll down, past the links to other McPherson plays and the current production notes, or click on this link to Lizzie's Review

Links to Other McPherson Plays reviewed at Curtainup
St. Nicholas - 1998
This Lime Tree Bower -1999
The Good Thief -2001
Port Authority -2001
Rum and Vodka -2002
Dublin Carol-2003
Shining City -2006

by Conor McPherson
Directed by Henry Wishcamper
Cast: Brian d'Arcy James (Dermot), Jonathan Gallagher, Jr. (Kevin) and Jim Norton (Joe)
Scenic design by Takeshi Kata
Costume design by Jenny Mannis
Lighting design by Matthew Richards
Sound design by Bart Fasbender
Dialect Coach: Stephen Gabis
Stage Manager: Mary Kathryn Flynt
Atlantic Theater Company's Linda Gross Theater 336 West 20th Streetbr
From 4/30/08; closing 6/22/08; opening 5/21/08.
Reviewed by Elyse Sommer on March 16, 2008
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Lizzie Loveridge's London Review of Port Authority

Like This Lime Tree Bower Conor McPherson bases his new play Port Authority round three monologues. Here are three men, three different generations voicing their experience about missed opportunities, relationships that never made it and risks that were never taken. They exemplify McPherson's special low key ability for Irish tale telling, with the men allowed to be centre stage talking about their feelings.

The stage is bare except for a bench and McPherson, who also directs, has each man talks alone so that at first we have no connections to make. A bell sounds the space between each man's speech. As one divulges, the other two sit passively in near darkness. The connections, when they are made, are tenuous so that what holds these monologues together is a personal response rather than that necessarily proscribed by the playwright.

Kevin (Eanna MacLiam) is the youngest man. Having just left home his problems are to do with housing and sexuality as he feels his way in the world. The out of control housewarming party which has the whole youth population of Dublin invited, is a blast. Dermot (Stephen Brennan), the middle aged man, is a loser. He is head hunted, by mistake, for a job in which he is out of his depth. He is abusing alcohol in an attempt to blank out the hurt in his life. The graphic picture he draws of hangovers and alcoholic haze are accurate and painful as in this metaphor for one monumental hangover: "The sun was beginning to shriek in through the window."

Joe (Jim Norton) is the third man. He is an old man, an active widower who lives in residential care, his white haired days full of regret for opportunities passed over.

The performances are seasoned and expert. Each man's articulation of loss and the perceived turning points is moving. The concentrated ninety minutes intersperses sadness with moments of wry humour. This is in the same vein as McPherson's other plays -- no moments of high drama, only a wistful, elegiac sense that there is more to Ireland than bonhomie and joking.
Written and directed by Conor McPherson

With: Jim Norton, Stephen Brennan and Eanna MacLiam
Design: Eileen Diss
Lighting Design: Mick Hughes
Running time: 1 hour 30 minutes with no interval
Box Office: 020 7369 1791
Booking to 31st March 2001 when it transfers to the Abbey Theatre Dublin
Reviewed by Lizzie Loveridge based on 23rd February 2001 performance at the New Ambassadors, West Street, London WC2

©Copyright 2008, Elyse Sommer.
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