Tiffany and Donal met in The Compass Rose, a bar in Martha’s Vinyard, ten years ago. It sounds like the kind of English style pub where you might expect to find an expat Irishman — or the guiding metaphor of a play. Tiffany is moving across the US to San Francisco to be with her fiancee, and her father tells her to take a companion on the road to keep her out of trouble. How Donal got the job is anybody’s guess. After all, he reeks of trouble.
This was in the dark days before GPS maps on smartphones, back in the good old days when a couple of kids could get comfortably lost on a transcontinental road trip; when “wayfinding” was having a multi-state atlas splayed out across the dashboard of your late 90s model Nissan Sentra. What should have been a three day trip turns into six weeks. Tiffany discovers that her fiancee is boring, uncommunicative, entitled and demanding. Donal discovers Tiffany’s free spirit, kindred to his own, and he falls in love. Somewhere in the desert, after they dance naked in the rain, Donal confesses his love to Tiffany. The next morning he wakes up alone.
Ten years later, Donal is back at the Compass Rose, pulling pints and polishing the brass. He married now — and legal. If life wasn’t what he expected, or wanted exactly, it’s still been alright. But of all the bars in the world, who should walk into his?
Tiffany and Donal rehearse their history in the present and through flashbacks. Set in Ryan’s Daughter, a bar on the Upper East Side, we, the audience, can soak in the beer and whiskey vibe of their youthful adventures and the stale hangover of their incipient middle age. Ronan Noone’s play is served up and well chilled, poignant and sweet, slightly intoxicating, with a slightly bitter aftertaste. The story offers no surprises. Tiffany made a bad choice, and both she and Donal have lived with the consequences for decade. But the climactic moment, the satisfying “a ha!” that reassures us it was all meant to be, never comes. Donal has the chance to say “I told you so,” but like a true gentleman he demurs.
Losing your way will always change your life, sometimes for the better and sometimes for the worse. Unfortunately, you can never know which. So, you either stay on the straight and narrow path directed to a certain fate, or you wander and hope your choices turn out for the best. For Tiffany and Donal, the journey was more important than the destination. If only they knew that then.