The Exiled

category: full length play
genre: comedy
running time: one hour, forty-five minutes
setting: various locations in a middle-sized American city
period: contemporary

characters:
Chester, a video-store managers in his mid-twenties
Susan, his girlfriend, an aspiring actress
Able, his best friend, an aspiring musician
Regina, Able’s girlfriend, an artist turned accountant
Jenny, her best friend, bisexual
Hugo, a gay man in his mid-twenties
Trent, his heterosexual roommate, a drug dealer
Imogen, Chester’s ex-girlfriend, a famous writer
Enrique, a radio DJ and phone sex stalker
Mark, a teenage clerk at Chester’s store
Lisa, Jenny’s ex-girlfriend
Natasha, Lisa’s current girlfriend, also bisexual
Walter, Natasha’s boyfriend

story:
The action takes place in a small American city (Tucson) where a group of friends has grown up around a high school and university they all attended together. Chester is a former high school jock with a sensitive side, currently managing a local video store and living with Susan, his college girlfriend, an aspiring actress who spends most days laying around the house dressing up in old costumes. Able is a wannabe unemployed jazz musician whose sculptor girlfriend, Regina, has just kicked him out of the house as part of her effort to find more structure in her life and “grow up.” The boys meet up with their other friends, Hugo and Trent, at the local bar to celebrate Chester’s promotion and commiserate Able’s dumping, while Susan sits at home talking to Enrique, a phone stalker she’s befriended in the wake of a growing communication rift between her and Chester who, unbeknownst to her, is quite innocently re-kindling a friendship with his ex-girlfriend, Imogen. As the story unfolds the relationships grow more complicated, with Chester trying to save his current love affair while finally understanding his previous one, Susan juggling her desire to leave Chester with her devout love for him, Regina working to let go of Able and yet forgive him, and Able acting like an idiot in an effort to avoid dealing with his remorse over the demise of his romance with Regina. Along the way the other characters are pulled into the web: first Jenny and then Hugo have sex with Able as he tries to drown his sorrow in empty hook-ups; Chester seeks advice from his clerk, Mark, who later begins a romantic relationship with Hugo; Imogen arrives to visit Chester and helps him recognize that Susan needs to leave; Trent deals drugs to Susan and gets her to admit she’s dissatisfied with her life; Hugo helps Regina start to come around after she jettisons herself from her group of friends; all the characters and plot lines come together on a talk show hosted by Enrique, featuring Natasha, Lisa and Walter as guest stars. The play comes full circle, bookended by a pair of poems written by Chester, the first for Imogen and the second for Susan, each echoing the central theme of the night, that happiness is elusive and by its nature transitory, but real and something we can look forward to in the future, or draw on from the past as a source of strength.

author’s comments:
If ever a script of mine has evolved over the years, it’s been Exiled. Originally titled “Between the Stars and the Birds”, the first draft of the show was easily an hour longer and had about ten more characters: a friend of mine who attended the first reading laughingly called it “the Michener epic of date plays.” Over the course of the year between its first draft and its first production it was revised twice, turned into a screenplay during a brief period when there was a move to have it filmed, and then turned back into a stageplay- a transformation which proved to be incredibly beneficial in the long run since it resulted in me finally whittling the piece down to an hour and forty-five minutes of interconnected, short, fast scenes, as opposed to the previous drafts, which had been hampered by lengthy scenes arranged in traditional play progression. When the play first hit the stage in January of 2000 there were still a few extraneous characters- Able’s cousin Kim, Brett, the leader of the gay support group, a stage manager for the talk show- as well as a fantasy ballet sequence for Imogen and Chester, all of which would be cut or absorbed into larger characters by the time the show appeared again in August of 2001. When the San Francisco production finally rolled around more changes were made, with some of the dialogue being re-tooled and the order of some scenes being shifted, as well as cuts and additions based on the specific needs of the space it was being mounted in. This happened yet again for the Chicago production in 2011. To this day there still isn’t a “definitive” Exiled script, though the Library of Congress has been holding onto one for years now. In a way, I’m actually happy about this: part of the strength of Exiled lies in its flexibility, and the truth is I think every production should kind of tailor the script to its own needs and actors- it’s a very simple story that needs to be personalized to work and while 80% of the script has been there since day one and doesn’t need to change, a good 20% of it probably should from production to production, just to keep it all fresh. The play is, above all else, a character study and thus really an actor’s piece, and anyone producing or directing it should keep that in mind and run with the looseness of the show: no two versions should be too much alike. That said, there is a lot about this play that has remained the same over the years and continues to resonate very strongly with me: Chester, Susan and Imogen’s complicated but real love for another; Regina’s arc from a woman who resents her own feelings for a man unworthy of her to becoming a woman who recognizes that accepting them is the first step towards letting them go; Able’s comically tragic run from his own feelings and the responsibilities they imply; Trent and Hugo’s friendship; Hugo’s connection with Regina based on their shared rejection; Chester’s solidness in the face of his own aching vulnerability; Susan’s farewell to Chester. I often say that I wrote this play during a summer when I was in love and every time I see it or re-read it, that remains very apparent for me. It’s a story about how everything changes and yet everything stays the same- a good thing, I think. At the center of all the bed-hopping, hurt feelings, strained friendships, wild hopes, and deep disappointments lays a series of unbreakable connections that hold, no matter how long or hard they are twisted, eventually transforming from nooses into lifelines and reminding us all that we are not alone, no matter how exiled we think we are, and that is a good thing.

Staged Readings:

The Knitting Factory, January 28, 2007, at The Knitting Factory in New York City, New York. Directed by Nat Cassidy; Stage Managed by Alexis Thomason. Cast: Andrew Grusetskie (Chester), Kelly Van Zile (Susan), Nat Cassidy (Able), Jeff Wills (Hugo), Abby Royle (Jenny), Matt Bailey (Enrique), Angela Hamilton (Imogen), Alisha Spielmann (Regina), Michael Freeland (Trent), Lindsay Fite (Natasha/Stage Manager/Loudspeaker/Stage Directions)

Productions:

Marissa Garcia in the Quicksilver production.
Marissa Garcia in the Quicksilver production.

Quicksilver Productions Inc., January 13, 14 & 15, 2000, at the Tucson Center for the Performing Arts in Tucson, Arizona. Directed by Stuart Bousel; Lighting by Christine Hawkins; Sound by Stuart Bousel; Stage Managed by Joshua Galyen. Cast: Travis Wright (Chester), Anne Heintz (Susan), Able (Chris McCaleb), Marissa Garcia (Regina), Tom Stefanek (Hugo), Amanda Karam (Jenny), Dean Hepker (Enrique), Dana Faris (Imogen), Wylie Herman (Trent), Robin Bousel (Lisa/Ballet Dancer), Brian McGrath (Mark/Walter/Ballet Dancer), Ashley Zeltzer (Natasha/Kim/Ballet Dancer), Joshua Galyen (Brett/Stage Manager/Ballet Dancer/Enrique’s Friend), Christine Hawkins (Airport Loudspeaker)

Tom Stefanek in the Quicksilver production.
Tom Stefanek in the Quicksilver production.

Horror Unspeakable Productions, August 23, 24, 25, 30 & 31, September 1, 2001, Cabaret Theater tt the Temple of Music and Art in Tucson, Arizona. Directed by Stuart Bousel; Lighting by Tonja Goetz; Sound by Lisa Fowle; Scenery by James Driscoll-MacEachron & Brian McGrath; Costumes by Taren Carter Hines. Cast: James Driscoll-MacEachron (Chester), Taren Carter Hines (Susan), Nat Cassidy (Able), Morgen Stevens-Garmon (Regina), Brian McGrath (Hugo), Sarah Calvert (Jenny), Jeff Popelka (Enrique), Anne Heintz (Imogen), Lorenzo Gonzalez (Trent), April de Luna (Lisa), Joshua Hanna (Mark/Walter), Isabel Sepulveda (Natasha), Stuart Bousel (Stage Manager), Lisa Fowle (DJ Slut)

Nat Cassidy and Sarah Calvert in the Horror Unspeakable Production.
Nat Cassidy and Sarah Calvert in the Horror Unspeakable Production.
Jim Driscoll MacEachron in the Horror Unspeakable production.
Jim Driscoll MacEachron in the Horror Unspeakable production.
Brian McGrath and Sarah Calvert in the Horror Unspeakable production.
Brian McGrath and Sarah Calvert in the Horror Unspeakable production.

No Nude Men Productions, October 14, 15, 16, 21, 22, 23, 28, 29 & 30, 2004, The Xenodrome in San Francisco, California. Directed by Stuart Bousel; Lighting by Jesse Baldwin; Music by Jesse Baldwin. Cast: Aaron Begg (Chester), Margery Fairchild (Susan), Jason Wong (Able), Gina Seghi (Regina), Justin Akers (Hugo), Felicia Benefield (Jenny), Chris Kelly (Enrique), Lisa Swanson (Imogen), Jesse Clark (Trent), Renate Mitchell (Lisa), Stuart Bousel (Mark), Alexis Perry (Natasha), Jesse Baldwin (Walter)

Lisa Swanson and Aaron Begg in the No Nude Men production.
Lisa Swanson and Aaron Begg in the No Nude Men production.
Margery Fairchild, Gina Seghi, and Felicia Benefield in the No Nude Men production.
Margery Fairchild, Gina Seghi, and Felicia Benefield in the No Nude Men production.
Justin Akers and Jesse Clark in the No Nude Men production.
Justin Akers and Jesse Clark in the No Nude Men production.

Harvest Arts Productions, December 5, 6, 7, 12, 13 & 14, 2011, The Second Stage of the Profiles Theater in Chicago, Illinois. Directed by Robin Bousel; Music by Clayton Horath. Cast: Stephen Dale (Chester); Sarah Brooks (Susan); Caleb D Manci (Able); Jillian Burfete (Regina); Dylan Jost (Hugo); Amy Hunt (Jenny); Tony Rossi (Trent); Melinda Ryba (Imogen); Byron Roussin (Enrique); Robin Bousel (Natasha/Announcer)

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