Sunday, June 08, 2008

Conor McPherson's "Port Authority"

I watched my second McPherson play last night in a converted church (Gothic Revival) in Chelsea. The Atlantic Theater company, founded by David Mamet and William H. Macy, runs this off-Broadway theater, as well as an acting school which practices an acting technique called Practical Aesthetics, originally conceived by the two men.

Directed by Henry Wishcamper, the play interweaves three monologues spoken by three men at a bus terminal. Kevin (john Gallagher, Jr.), the young man who just left home to live on his own, hangs out with loser-bands, and lets the girl he loves walk away. Dermot (Brian d'Arcy James) is a middle-aged exec who thinks he's going somewhere, finally, in his career, only to find himself back at square one, with a wife who chose him because she pitied him for his mediocrity. Joe (Jim Norton), living in an old age home, recalls giving up a romantic opportunity because he was too afraid. As Kevin puts it, the world has only two souls we all share: the one who flows along with things, and the one who fights. The three men share the first.

The writing is sharp, and sometimes moving. McPherson has a good ear for the way people talk about themselves. The acting is always vivid; especially memorable is Jim Norton who creates an average Joe quite different from the talkative drunk of an older brother in "The Seafarer." I did not like the soft background music and lighting effects that accompany epiphanic moments. The writing is evocative enough on its own.

The Headhunter's all-purpose 5-point scale: ****

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