It’s supposed to be a self-help meeting for men, but the casual banter between the trio seated in the church basement makes the scene look more like three adults trying to avoid getting to the point at all costs. At least, until Keiran Riley walks in. When Andre Perera makes his confession, there is a [...]

The Sunday Times Sri Lanka

Manhood under the microscope



It’s supposed to be a self-help meeting for men, but the casual banter between the trio seated in the church basement makes the scene look more like three adults trying to avoid getting to the point at all costs. At least, until Keiran Riley walks in. When Andre Perera makes his confession, there is a tremor in his newly acquired Irish lilt. His character Keiran all but breaks into a sweat and is clearly disoriented. But his nervous admission is a catalyst, forcing the others to take a brutal look at themselves and the ‘elephant in the room’ subject matter of manhood and sexuality.


When Identities Inc. takes the stage from August 7-9 with their new production “The Irish Curse”, they hope to take their audiences on a similar rollercoaster ride of emotions. Written by Martin Casella, the award-winning play will be staged by a well known cast under the direction of Gehan Blok. Identities came into the limelight last year with their riveting production of Glengarry Glen Ross. Showing a penchant for adult themes, dark comedy and the human condition, The Irish Curse had become a fast favourite with the group from its first reading.

Dominic Kellar was initially drawn by the humour which Casella seamlessly laces into the dialogue. A founding member of Identities, the thought of doing a play that was both hilarious and different was tempting but he isn’t blind to the fact that they would be dealing with sensitive subject matter. Although the dialogue has its fair share of humour it also tackles the content with a balance of sensitivity and acceptance; a quality most of the characters don’t have toward their situation (we don’t call it a problem, the characters continually remind us).


Dominic plays Joseph Flaherty, the only character to probably accept his situation from the very beginning. Somewhere in his forties, Joseph is a successful lawyer whose personal life has recently crumbled. One of the older members of the group, he feels Joseph’s ability to be more open about his insecurities is because he has dealt with it the longest. “It’s this one little thing that controls a man’s life,” he explains.


While the obvious factor ruling the plot is physical, Dominic is more concerned about the emotional strings attached to it. “The group is his escape,” Dominic adds. Spending his Wednesday nights with men almost half his age, Joseph is one of the lighter, more welcoming characters. But would he have been this forthcoming 20 years ago? “I don’t think a young Joseph would have ever spoken out,” says Dominic.

Taking on two roles is Gehan Blok. When not in the director’s chair, Gehan struts around in the striped hoodie and sports jersey of 22-year-old Rick Baldwin. Playing Rick was not Gehan’s first choice. But having stepped into the character he found new challenges that came with portraying the exuberant, hyper-masculine young stud. “They all have facades that come down,” he explains. The hardest part for him was playing a character that has the potential to be vulnerable and submissive in addition to his loud image. For Gehan, 27, Rick is still a naïve kid whose ideals only reflect his inexperience and immaturity, “I’d remind him that he’d see life differently in a few years time” he smiles sagely.

The newest member to the support group is Keiran Riley. Playing the likeable Irish roofer comes naturally to the equally likeable Andre Perera. “When Gehan called me up, I didn’t know about the script at all” but “Keiran is the kind of best friend you’d want,” he says. Being the new guy doesn’t make it any easier for him to talk about his fears and self doubt but it allows Kieran to ask probing questions in a genuinely concerned way. “He’s never spoken about it before.”

Dino. Pix by M.A. Pushpa Kumara

When he first read it, the script was “interesting” but it’s more than just about the laughs for Andre. “We don’t know whether it’ll be positive or negatively received,” he admits. For him it’s a chance to make an impression. You have to be subtle, obviously. But we want it to be real.”

“I still haven’t completely figured him out,” Dino Corera says, shaking his head of his role as the play’s antagonist Stephen Fitzgerald. A pessimistic undercover cop, Stephen comes across as a typical dark, brooding, handsome type. The only homosexual character in the play, Casella introduces the added complexity of male sexuality seen from Stephen’s point of view. Dino admits to finding it difficult to play his character; “a butch cop” different from the conventional effeminate portrayals seen in theatre and film.

After reading the script, Dino sees the physical aspect as the livewire of a man’s identity. “It’s an intricate part of who you are,” he says, with family and upbringing also playing a major impact on self-image and expression. For Stephen being vicious is a cover-up for his fears. It could be why his character is probably the least liked. But Dino does enjoy playing Stephen–especially because they share the same brand of sarcastic humour. “But I’m not as bad as he is,” he adds quickly.

Pasan Ranaweera is also shedding a stereotype with his character Father Kevin Shaunessy. “He is a grounded character,” Pasan says of the middle aged Catholic priest and mediator of the group. Playing the serene figure is a far cry from the comic roles that seem to follow Pasan. Although he has worked with most of the cast before, this is his first time with Gehan as his director. “He has an incredible drive,” he says, and a vision for the production that makes their work as actors easy. Pasan who has also dabbled in Sinhala theatre feels that the play may be closer to home, than we think. “I think a lot of men will be represented in this play,” he adds.

Identities Inc presents “The Irish Curse” in association with Samuel French Inc. The play goes on the boards from August 7 to 9 at the Lionel Wendt. Tickets priced at Rs. 2000, 1500, 1000 and 600 are available at the Lionel Wendt. The play is only for adults.

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