Poetry of the Everyman Shines in “Port Authority”
Reviewed by: Melody Udell
Port Authority, a quietly blistering trio of monologues now being staged at the Writers’ Theatre cozy bookstore venue, is playwright Conor McPherson’s long overdue break from the supernatural. Most of the acclaimed Irish writer’s produced works contain an element of the otherwordly, whether it’s the undead in Shining City, ghosts in The Weir or Satan himself in The Seafarer, which was part of the Steppenwolf’s 2008 line-up. But in Port Authority, you’ll find no such specter. The ghosts that haunt these three men are merely their own.
The performers each represent everyday (or so we’re told) Irish men at different stages of life—and love. There’s Kevin (Rob Fenton), whose life finally seemed to be picking up speed once he was out of his parents house. But he quickly finds himself yearning for his new roommate, Claire, who just so happens to be dating a man who’s everything Kevin is not. Then there’s Dermot (John Hoogenakker), a reluctantly middle-aged corporate employee who finds himself with a too-good-too-be-true job offer—a cushy position that includes company trips to LA and blessed time away from the shackles that are his wife and son. And finally, there’s Joe (Patrick Clear), a nursing home-aged widower who, thanks to a mysterious piece of mail, recounts long-buried memories of a forbidden love affair that had only barely begun.
Port Authority doesn’t follow the rules of traditional dramatic set-up; it’s a series of lightly interlocking stories that don’t fight for your attention. The characters seem to be letting us in on a little bit of their lives, bits that are filled with well-worn regrets and lessons of “what if.” They pace the unevenly lit stage, outfitted with only three lonely stools and a strand of lights, and let you in on their unpolished moments of introspection.
McPherson’s prose is languid and raw, matching the romantic listlessness that Kevin, Dermot and Joe all share. The three actors are very well-cast, easily able to transition from nostalgia for the good times to moments of wistful regret. Especially powerful was Hoogenakker, whose particular story is singed with life-altering remorse. But its that remorse, McPherson tells us, that awakens us—for better or for worse—to the skewed perceptions we have of ourselves.
Port Authority may be quiet—understated, even—but its ruminations on what could have been won’t easily leave your thoughts.
Port Authority runs through Sunday, Feb. 16 at Writers’ Theatre (664 Vernon Ave., Glencoe) on Tuesdays and Wednesdays at 7:30 p.m. (select Wednesday matinees at 2 p.m.), Thursdays and Fridays at 8 p.m., Saturdays at 4 p.m. and 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. and 6 p.m. Tickets are $35-$70 and are available online or by phone at 847-242-6000. For calendar information please visit www.theatreinchicago.com.