In 2008, I saw “Port Authority” by Conor McPherson at The Atlantic Theater Company (it was first staged in London in 2001). The extraordinary cast comprised John Gallagher Jr., Brian D’Arcy James, and Jim Norton (a McPherson stalwart). Once again, (having seen “The Weir,” “Shining City” and “The Seafarer,” all on Broadway), I was mesmerized by McPherson’s language, the shimmering ordinariness and passivity of these three Dublin men, and their stories of lost loves. I thought the production peerless.
Now “Port Authority” is back in New York, this time staged by The Irish Repertory Company (at the DR2 Theatre off Union Square, while their main stage undergoes renovations) and directed by Ciaran O’Reilly.
The play’s protagonists represent the three ages of man: young Kevin (James Russell) has moved out of parents’ home for the first time into a dump shared with three other equally aimless youths. Dermot (Billy Carter) is a middle-aged, arrogant, deeply insecure man who has inexplicably been hired as a money manager for a glamorous firm. Joe (Peter Maloney) is in an old-age home run by nuns, where a trip to the shops for betting and beer is considered the height of rule breaking.
Ghosts loom large in McPherson’s plays, and “Port Authority” is no exception. Each man is haunted by the specter of regret: a love that could not be, a love squandered, a love deliberately denied. These seemingly ordinary men, who never acknowledge each other on Charlie Corcoran’s spare yet beautiful set, are imbued with sadness as they stand and deliver their own stories, in chapters, in succession. So though the construct is theatrical (the Author’s Note reads: “The play is set in the theatre.”) the regret is palpable, recognizable. Human. As Dermot says, “Don’t ever try to work anything out. Because you don’t know—and you never will.”
As Kevin, James Russell is all angles and angst, a totally believable young man head over heels without a clue. Billy Carter has all the swagger and bravado of Dermot, but I would have liked him a bit more hang-dog, a bit more embarrassed rather than comedic, so that when he comes back to his wife, his response to her is defeated, overwhelming need. And Peter Maloney is masterful as the conflicted Joe, wrapping his wife’s rosary beads, like honor and duty, around one hand, and his desire for an unknown woman, framed and clutched, in the other.
This ”Port Authority” is very fine, with all involved working at a very high level. You will suffer no regrets for the 90 minutes you are in their company.