Review: Port Authority (Fly on the Wall Theatre)

The cast of Port Authority (Toronto 2016)Fly on the Wall Theatre presented Port Authority at Toronto’s Campbell House Museum

What venue could be more perfect for the staging of Irish playwright Conor McPherson’s Port Authority than Toronto’s historic Campbell House Museum?  Recently mounted by Fly on the Wall Theatre, the play is a night of storytelling and reminded me of one of those rare nights when you have a heartfelt conversation with a close friend, father or grandfather. It’s difficult to not use the word “haunting” when describing this play, as it is bound to stay in my memory for some time.

Six or eight small tables filled a downstairs room at Campbell House Museum, with chairs for four at each. Lighting and effects were minimal, and the overall atmosphere felt like a gathering at an intimate and exclusive social club. A small table in one corner sold Guinness, wine and Walkers cheese and onion “crisps”. At the opposite end of the room was the “stage”.

There are three characters in Port Authority, Kevin (Anthony MacMahon), Dermot (David Mackett) and Joe (Patrick Monaghan). The men are at various stages of their lives, almost like a son, father and grandfather. They took turns delivering monologues while sipping tea. All three characters open up our souls as they tell their stories and completely engage the audience.

Young Kevin begins the storytelling, with his tale being about moving out of his parent’s house for the first time. It’s a coming of age story, a bit like going away to college. He has moved into a house and the occupants end up throwing a massive party. The party ends up being visited by both the police and two ambulances. While all of this is going on Kevin finds himself growing closer and closer to a young woman.

Next up is Dermot. He’s had more gin and tonics than he cares to remember and is at a dinner party with his new employer. His real distraction, however, is his employer’s half-dressed wife. His story becomes more and more epic until he is in Los Angeles trying cocaine for the first time.

The night of storytelling continues with Joe. Played by Monaghan, Joe was a vivid and engaging character. He was the character I could least relate to though, as I am yet to reach that advanced stage of “boyhood”. That being said, I must mention that acting of all three men was as strong as McPherson’s writing is brilliant. In all three cases the men weren’t acting so much as they “were” the characters.

There is no real resolution at the end of Port Authority. Instead, McPherson offers a very contemplative philosophy about whether or not we have unique souls. Kevin summed it up for us:

“Maybe there’s just two. One for people who go with the flow, and one for all the people who fight.”

Overall, Port Authority was an outstanding evening. For me, hearing Kevin was like visiting the past, with Dermot being my present and Joe my future. Now if only I could get Conor McPherson to write the screenplay for the rest of my life!

If there’s anything I didn’t like about my evening it is that my Irish friend Tia was back home in Dundalk an couldn’t join me for the play. For Tia I say “go see anything written by Conor McPherson”. For people in Toronto I say “go see anything staged by Fly on the Wall Theatre or with Anthony MacMahon, David Mackett or Patrick Monaghan in the cast.


Photo of Anthony MacMahon, Patrick Monaghan and David Mackett by Richard Van Dine