Porto, written by Kate Benson and magnificently directed by Lee Sunday Evans, is brilliant. The writer has created a 90 minute play that is funny, bright, and so raw it becomes wise. You cannot fight the truths Benson has written, from reality unto the stage, about how women think about themselves, especially when it comes to men.
It is no secret; women are hard on themselves. We are grown like fruit for men to pluck and make their “wives”, but, nowadays, if you give too much juice, you are tossed out of the “marital” tree. This explains why Porto, in a bar-set beautifully designed by Kristen Robinson, struggles to show her brilliance. She fears being too intellectual, too open, and even too kind because it could all be misinterpreted by other men as needy or demanding, particularly her growing love interest, Hennipen (played sweetly by Jorge Cordova). Actress Julia Sirna Frest makes you both love Porto, but also want to kick her out of her own mind. For however intriguing she is as a person, she is so self-deprecating and insecure, that you cannot enjoy her as much as you want to, because she does not enjoy herself. In this sense, Frest’s portrayal of Porto is intelligent and nuanced.
As seen through Porto’s perspective, sex is a constantly weird over-thought for women; trapped between being treated by men as a precious trophy or another score. Knowing men’s thoughts and, at times, lowly approaches causes women to have a double-consciousness; where they tussle with a voice that is protective, pushy, and prosperous. In Porto, that voice is the narrator, Kate Benson, whom is unbelievably smart and sultry. I have never heard anyone make a recipe, said out loud through a speaker in darkness, sound so passionate and riveting. Though unseen, her voice is so commanding, you wish she replaced Siri and Alexa as simply Kate. The crowd reveled in her words; giving thought and reactions to thing that could, technically, mean nothing: like her recipe recital. Yet, you need a voice that is as attractive as it is attentive because the narrator is both the inner thoughts and motivating actions of the characters.
Every character in Porto is relatable or, at the very least, someone you know. They are funny, fragile, and eager to connect, but are self-conscious as to how? You have Leah Karpel as Porto’s best friend, Dry Sac, whom is beautiful, outrageous, and broken, all at once. Benson has done well to write how women cut their confidence, and thus their greatness, even without men’s help. Yet, as seen with Hennipen and Noel Joseph Allain and Ugo Chukwu’s multiple, hilarious characters, particularly Doug and Raphael, men are not absolved from thinking too much. Yet, Benson shows the materiality of men’s thoughts versus the personality of women.
While the women attacked or analyzed their person’s, the men only thought about material things like, food, books, sex, and philosophy. They never thought about their person or their image according to others, which I find deeply poignant to the purpose of Porto as a a play. While women and men are equal, we do not think of or about ourselves in the same way. While there are so many policies and politics that have yet to acknowledge women’s equality, Porto thrives in showing that women also fail to treat themselves better. While the men of Porto think of their most present, basic needs, the women are tossing between how and if they can define their wants. For More Information On And To Buy Tickets To Porto Click Here. It is located at WP Theater
2162 Broadway & 76th Street, NYC, 10024. It will play until February 25.