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Port Authority

John Gallagher, Jr., Brian d'Arcy James, and Jim Norton bring to life Conor McPherson's sharply etched portraits of three different Irishmen. logo
John Gallagher, Jr., Jim Norton, and Brian d'Arcy James
in Port Authority
(© Doug Hamilton)
Conor McPherson is a master storyteller, whose previous works -- including The Seafarer, The Weir, The Good Thief, and This Lime Tree Bower -- spun tales of ordinary men in both mundane and extraordinary circumstances. In Port Authority, his trio of interwoven monologues now being presented by the Atlantic Theater Company, the playwright creates sharply etched portraits of three different Irishmen who experience desire, loss and regret. Ably directed by Henry Wishcamper, the play is brought brilliantly to life by John Gallagher, Jr., Brian d'Arcy James, and Jim Norton.

Gallagher portrays Kevin, a young man who has just moved out of his parents' home and into a flat shared by three other people. He has no job and few prospects, as well as a romantic obsession about his female flatmate, Clare, who may or may not return his affections. While Kevin supposedly has his whole life in front of him, he seems defeated even before he's properly begun. Gallagher holds himself in a manner that's often more apologetic than confident, and even Kevin's affair with a barmaid named Trish doesn't trigger a turning point for him.

Dermot, played by d'Arcy James, is a born loser who gets an unexpected job opportunity, and then proceeds to embarrass himself at every turn -- particularly at a house party at his new employer's home. His story is both funny and pathetic at the same time, and thanks to d'Arcy James' excellent performance, it's hard not to feel some sympathy for the man, even if he's not exactly a lovable person. The actor has a particularly strong rapport with the audience, taking in their responses and making it seem as if he's engaging in an actual conversation.

Norton, who originated his role in the 2001 London production of Port Authority, plays Joe, an elderly religious man who receives an unexpected package that causes him to reminisce about a female neighbor whom he once knew. Norton has a manner of speaking that vividly conjures up images of what he's talking about, and his chronicle of Joe's life ends up being the most hopeful of the evening.

The three monologues, told in alternating turns by the actors, are only tangentially related. A band named The Bangers is mentioned in two of the narratives, although there seems to be a time gap involved as the band is just starting out in Kevin's tale and are internationally known in Dermot's. The contents of the package in Joe's story are also referred to in Dermot's. In addition, the pieces share some of the same thematic concerns, particularly in regards to regret, which is a feeling that all three men endure and deal with (or not) in their own ways.

Admittedly, McPherson doesn't have any huge insights that he's sharing through these accounts of men leading fairly undistinguished lives. Nevertheless, it's a treat to hear these three terrific actors interpret his richly evocative stories.

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