Port Authority's good kind of pain 

Conor McPherson's play depicts the passion of the loser.

Rob Fenton, John Hoogenakker, and Patrick Clear

Rob Fenton, John Hoogenakker, and Patrick Clear

Michael Brosilow

Dublin-born playwright Conor McPherson is best known for dramas that touch on the uncanny—a haunted widower in Shining City, a satanic poker game in The Seafarer—while heading for something deeper. His 2001 Port Authority displays a similar MO. Its three intertwined monologues dance around the romance of kismet yet open out into hard questions about assertion and passivity, happiness and regret, will and the willingness to go with the flow. Basically, that is, about how each of us earns his fate.

Those questions are embodied by three Irishmen, Kevin, Dermott, and Joe. The first is a twentysomething hipster living on the periphery of the local music scene, the second a would-be breadwinner with an overweight wife and a strong taste for booze, the third an old widower living in a rest home. McPherson makes a few perfunctory gestures toward connecting their lives—more for our amusement, I'd say, than anything else. But the real bond among them is that each has arrived at an uncomfortable self-awareness, having been tested, as the famous writing on the wall says, and found wanting. Theirs is the painful, oddly dignified passion of the loser.

In William Brown's plain, exquisitely orchestrated, 90-minute production, actors Rob Fenton, John Hoogenakker, and Patrick Clear listen to one another like fellow confessors at an AA meeting. Each one is vivid and true—though I may be most partial to Hoogenakker, inasmuch as his Dermot has the farthest to fall and the ugliest trip down. The show is funny and often tender, but entirely capable of inflicting wounds. It's worth it.

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