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Adagio Teas
   Features  >  NY Theater Reviews

 
PORT AUTHORITY
at the Atlantic Theater Company's Linda Gross Theater

HOPEFUL SIGNS
By ANDY BUCK

  Brian d’Arcy James, John Gallagher Jr. & Jim Norton /PH: Sara Krulwich

Those proverbial ships that pass in the night can be found at any port of call. But, these days, look no further than the Atlantic Theater where Conor McPherson's moving 2001 play Port Authority is receiving its New York premiere.

McPherson was most recently represented in New York this winter by the Broadway production of The Seafarer, and he was last at the Atlantic with Dublin Carol in 2003. Both of these productions starred the remarkable Irish actor Jim Norton, who is featured in Port Authority as Joe, a wistful but amiable resident of a small retirement home in Dublin. Sharing the stage are two younger men, also from Dublin: a middle-aged loser named Dermot, sharply played by Brian d'Arcy James, and Kevin, a much younger man trying to strike out on his own for the first time. Kevin is portrayed by the wonderful John Gallagher, Jr., back at the Atlantic after his by-now iconic turn in the 2006 musical Spring Awakening, for which he won a Tony Award after its move to Broadway.

McPherson's play is actually three interwoven monologues delivered by the characters, but director Henry Wishcamper keeps the electricity flowing through what could, in lesser hands, be sleepy storytelling. Takeshi Kata's simple set design, the centerpiece of which is a large wooden bench such as can be found in a bus, train, or ship terminal, keeps the focus on the three actors. And Matthew Richards' lighting remains beautifully low key except during scattered moments of revelation when gels around the perimeter of the stage seem to suddenly evoke both the setting around a character and his inner landscape, as when young Kevin, in a deeply touching moment by Gallagher, reaches the city's harbor and realizes that he and the girl with whom he's tried to not fall in love have walked as far as they can together. A pale blue glow surrounds the spare stage as Kevin registers the miles and miles of sea" before him.

In the script, Joe, Dermot, and Kevin don't address each other. But they nevertheless share interesting degrees of separation, some fairly clear, others only hinted at. This is, in fact, a story of elusive connections, with a particular focus on romances and fantasies that, to varying degrees, may or may not be just outside the grasp of these men. All of them experience fleeting impulses to reach beyond their comfort zones, where their hearts are directing them. And all of them depend on stronger women to reach back and pull them through...or not. In a lucid moment, Kevin ruminates, "Maybe there isn't a soul for every person in the world. Maybe there's just two. One for people who go with the flow, and one for people who fight. Maybe lots of us share a soul."

The journey to find such a soul mate is largely what this play is about. And, as with many of this playwright's works, it's a journey fueled by hard liquor and regrets, but one that is so poignant and often funny, that you go hopefully along for the voyage.

 


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