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Review of reviews: Stage

Port Authority

Port Authority
Linda Gross Theater
New York
(212) 279-4200

****

Irish playwright Conor McPher­son specializes in “gruffly lyrical monologues,” said Ben Brantley in The New York Times. Port Authority is little more than a trio of long speeches, delivered by three ordinary Dubliners seated on a terminal bench, awaiting a ferry. Young Kevin, newly liberated from his parents’ home, is living with a pair of hard-drinking musicians and the girl he secretly loves. Middle-aged Dermot is unhappy in marriage and career, but just might get ahead if he can tamp down his urge to self-sabotage. And Joe’s humdrum life in a Catholic retirement home has been recently interrupted by the doscovery of a photograph of a long-lost love. Scarcely aware of one another’s existence, the three take turns sharing their lonely lives. Together, they create a “haunting fugue on passive lives and loves that might have been.”

“The wispy stories these loners tell are right in McPherson’s bailiwick,” said Joy Goodwin in The New York Sun. But what makes this play special is the language, along with the playwright’s eye for detail and talent for lending the mundane cosmic significance. Only in his 30s, McPherson has been hailed as the greatest playwright of his generation. Port Authority proves him worthy of the title. Though the soliloquies lack “the more interactive pleasures of the theater, they do furnish some of the consolations of literature.” The work turns genuinely magical when “stubborn romanticism bursts without warning” from these seemingly defeated souls.

Performers prize the chance to take on such roles, said Michael Sommers in the Newark, N.J., Star-Ledger. John Gallagher Jr., fresh off his Tony Award–winning turn in Spring Awakening, proves his depth as the slack-jawed Kevin. Brian d’Arcy James is affecting as the sheepish and slumping Dermot. And McPherson stalwart Jim Norton gives an unforgettably wistful performance as Joe. The 90 minutes may not be action-packed, but they pass swiftly and engagingly under Henry Wishcamper’s smart, tight direction. “It’s a tribute to both play and production that viewers are likely to leave wanting more.”

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