Exiles is James Joyce’s only published play. While the world knows him as a one of the great novelists, this traditional, three-act play, inspired by the Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen (of whom Joyce admired), shows that his playwriting chops were also not without merit.
The play features a pair of rather complicated love triangles. Richard Rowan (George Kiriakapulos) is an Irish writer living in Dublin with his wife Bertha (Tiffani Anderson-Davies). The couple’s childhood friend, Robert Hand (Benjamin Diamond Coles), is a journalist. The three have known each other for almost a decade, and throughout these years, Robert has not-so-subtly expressed his fondness for Bertha and his resentment in her choosing Richard over him when they all first met. Also in the mix is Robert’s cousin, Beatrice Justice (Ashley Stevens), a woman who has had relations with her cousin while hiding her affections for Richard at the same time. It’s not a simple setup, and it is made less clear by the characters’ unwillingness to make their feelings expressly known, but it certainly makes for an interesting story.
The production itself is simply staged (set design by Megan Apa), in juxtaposition with its intricate, weaving plot. A quaint living room setup, with a loveseat, chair and table, provides a setting for these friends and lovers to lay bare the emotional entanglements that are their lives. Kiriakapulos in the lead role as Richard Rowan, is a brooding presence onstage. Richard is clearly a thinker, a man of ideas, but not one who advocates those ideas without careful consideration. This is the very opposite of his friend, Robert, who is brash and emotional. The scenes with Kiriakapulos and Coles are among the finest in the play, as these duelling personalities clash time and again throughout the production.
Exiles is an ambitious first production for Sad Ibsen Theatre, perhaps not in scale but definitely in complexity. At rare times during the show, things waver and teeter, but at other times, you might seem nervous to breathe. It’s a good first start for what looks like a promising company, and if you’re a fan of Joyce at all, you will certainly leave satisfied.
Directed by Ryan Borochovitz, Exiles runs until Jan. 31 on select days. Visit www.redsandcastletheatre.com for specific dates and times. Tickets are $20 or $15 for students/artists. Buy at the door or call 416-845-9411 to order.