Epiphany Review: Not a straightforward adaptation of Joyce’s scenario

Padraic Killeen reviews Epiphany from the Town Hall Theatre, Galway.

Epiphany Review: Not a straightforward adaptation of Joyce’s scenario

Padraic Killeen reviews Epiphany from the Town Hall Theatre, Galway.

Riffing on James Joyce’s iconic short story, ‘The Dead’, but doing so with surprisingly little wit or craft, Druid’s new production is disappointing.

Like Joyce’s story, the play centres on a dinner party held on the feast of the Epiphany. But this is not a straightforward adaptation of Joyce’s scenario.

No, this is a very different dinner party, with very different guests. For one thing, they have smartphones and hail from an era closer to our own time. And, for another, their intensive chatter very quickly becomes trite and tiresome.

There is tedious discussion of empiricism, risible blather about solipsism, and much hand-wringing about — musha — the influence of digital media.

Abillion banal micro-profundities descend on the audience like soporific snowflakes. The deeper irony is that Brian Watkins’ play spends much of its time diagnosing social ailments of which it (the play) seems just another product.

For instance, Marie Mullen’s character reflects on gathering information by endless “clicks”, yet the play itself comes across like an overblown think-piece, patched together via an algorithm trained on Wikipedia.

The appropriations from Joyce’s famous story are deployed with a heavy-handedness, too, and seem at once too aimless and too solemn. When the play — which spends most of its time camped in droll farce territory — makes a heightened lurch for pathos at the finale, it is entirely unearned and thereforeunsatisfying.

There are elements that work well. FrancisO’Connor’s set design is beautiful and imaginative and the characters are etched out quite well, allowing the performers to hit some nice grace notes.

But the script is sorely lacking and a great many things are askew.

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