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D.C. has no paucity of companies devoted to the contemporary theater of Ireland, and more specifically, no surfeit of places to sample the work of Conor McPherson, the not-yet-50-year-old Dubliner who won an Olivier Award before he was 30. McPherson’s haunting plays have been performed by Solas Nua, Scena Theatre, and Keegan Theatre, and on the more general interest stages of Studio Theatre. In 2011, Scena and Keegan each offered competing versions of The Weir, the play that got McPherson his Olivier, mere weeks apart.
But Bethesda’s Quotidian Theatre Company is the most McPhersonian of them all, having staged 10 McPhersons, including the U.S. premiere of The Veil. None of our many Irish-focused companies have revived McPherson’s 2001 three-hander Port Authority in the decade since QTC staged its area premiere, so Quotidian is picking up the slack and doing it again. This anthology of three interwoven monologues by Dublin men—one young, one middle-aged, and one living out his final years in a nursing home—is as observant in its details and rich in small epiphanies as any of McPherson’s character studies. It falters only (and then, just slightly) when McPherson feels obligated to build in some glancing intersection among the three men’s lives.
As he did 10 years ago, Jack Sbarbori has cast three dudes—different dudes, to be clear—who interpret the material with sensitivity and grace. Had a few more years gone by, Sbarbori might have entertained the notion of casting the actor who played the 20-something Kevin the last time around as the the late-40s-or-early-50s Dermot, and moving his previous Dermot up to the senescent part of Joe. In any event, the three ages of man are represented in this new production by Chris Stinson, Matthew Vaky, and Joseph Palka. Each is seasoned and versatile; each inhabits his role as though it were written for him. They speak until a bell rings, and then the current speaker sits down and a new one takes his place.
McPherson’s stage directions indicate only that Port Authority “is set in a theater.” Sbarbori, serving as his own set designer, has given the environment a weathered, wood-paneled look evocative of a dock, where a resident of any city with a river running down the middle of it might go to collect his thoughts.
Stinson’s Kevin tells us of his first, tentative move out of his parents’ house. Vaky’s Dermot recounts his terror and exhilaration at having inexplicably been hired for a big-money job for which he is, in his own estimation, wholly unqualified. Palka’s Joe is transfixed by a woman with whom he’s never exchanged more than a few words, and haunted by his guilt at having been so infatuated. Each of these quiet anecdotes acquires the psychic footprint of an epic as it’s carefully seeded with each storyteller’s aspirations and disappointments. No, not an epic. Something triumphantly human scale.
4508 Walsh St., Bethesda. $20–$35. (301) 816-1023. quotidiantheatre.org.