Conor McPherson puts me in mind of an early David Mamet. Except there's no real vitriol. He's more like what Nick Hornby might be if he were young, Irish and a playwright. That said, comparisons belie McPherson's unique talent so I'll be done with them.
The reason for such associations is that McPherson, like those other writers, gives voice to the modern male. His men tend to be the lonely hearts, the downtrodden, the ones to whom things happen in life or, as one of his characters here puts it, the real laid-back "go with the flow" (even if the flow is dire) types rather than the fighters.
In Port Authority, we're presented with three such, tenuously linked specimens. The young man (Eanna MacLiam) who is desperate to move out of his parents' house once and for all; the middle-aged man (Stephen Brennan), a borderline alcoholic and serial loser who has landed himself a job he's not qualified for; and the old man (Jim Norton), a sprightly widower who tries to make the most of his mundane, retirement home existence. Very different circumstances and distinct life stages, and yet all three share a common concern about lost love - and their own part in losing it.
Their individual stories are conveyed via stop and start monologues. There's no interaction and no plot and not much physical movement either. One man sits down and another stands as a bell rings, like sounding the next round of a boxing match. And yet the production doesn't feel static. Designer Eileen Diss's blank stage with its gently shifting, back-projected images of moon and stars and ocean helps, but it's really McPherson's language and his own sure-handed direction that carries us along.
Like so many great Irish authors, his writing has a beautiful, lyrical quality ("like a jewel on the mountain on the top of Friday" is one of my new favourite lines ever). But he also has a keen ear for the spoken word and a capacity to lace his text with just the right, highly evocative details. The flash of a silver bracelet on tanned skin, for instance, and the cider-piss and grass smell of a "mental" house party that wouldn't be brought more to life if a cast of 100 acted it out before your eyes.
The performances by the three accomplished Irish actors are also, across the board, superb. MacLiam, Brennan and Norton all capture frustration, disappointment and resignation in equal measure and captivate from start to finish with their subtle yet heartfelt deliveries.
Port Authority most probably won't be the runaway success of McPherson's award-winning The Weir but, male or female, I'll wager that you'll warm to its gentle charms. I did.