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Theater Review: “Bloomsday”

Theater Review: “Bloomsday”
Photo credit:
Hunter Saling & Rachel Weck (Toast) – photo by Aaron Rumley

Playwright Steven Dietz’s “Bloomsday” – a charming, wistful, funny and thought-provoking meditation on youth, age, regret, Dublin and James Joyce – plays through Feb. 2 at North Coast Repertory Theatre.

In Joyce’s monumental(ly long) novel “Ulysses,” the character Leopold Bloom meanders around Dublin on June 16, which has evermore been known – and celebrated – as Bloomsday.

Andrew Barnicle directs “Bloomsday,” which imaginatively replays that day 35 years later – and with wildly clever time shifts – with a great sense of both timing and drama.

The play opens with the return to Dublin of the now middle-aged Robert, who as a stripling of 20 joined a tour of of the city led by a spunky lass named Caithleen. Robbie was less interested in Dublin than in the guide, and they struck up a friendship that might have gone somewhere. But the young Robbie wasn’t willing to buck Caithleen’s mother’s objection (she called him “not serious”), and returned home alone.

But he hasn’t stopped thinking about her, and now he’s come back to find out what happened to her.

The mutability of time is shown in the first scene, when the middle-aged Robert (Martin Kildare) “sees” the young Caithleen (Rachel Weck) and starts up a conversation. Caithleen co-opts Robert for the tour because she’s down to 13 participants and is uncomfortable with that number. She doesn’t know who he is, but is surprised that he seems to know so much about her. She’s more than a little stunned when he warns her that Robbie will be on her next tour.

Robert will also run into his younger self (played with youthful spontaneity by Hunter Saling) – who will wonder who this old geezer is and why he knows so much, and is warning him not to let this chance slip by. The older Caithleen (called Cait, and played with the sad wisdom of age by Jacquelyn Ritz) will also show up to talk to her younger self.

The play is cleverly devised to keep the surprises coming. And there’s another payoff: if you are one of those who had to read “Ulysses” in college, you’ll love Robert’s hilariously disparaging comments about it. (He became an English professor and teaches a course about Joyce).

The cast is faultless. Kildare’s Robert’s desire to right a wrong contrasts with the knowing acceptance of Ritz’s Cait. Weck and Saling contribute the hopefulness of youth as Caithleen and Robbie.

The technical work supports their efforts. Marty Burnett’s simple ivy-covered set, Renetta Lloyd’s period costumes and Aaron Rumley’s sound and projections add to the atmosphere without distracting from the drama.

Don’t miss your chance to see “Bloomsday.”

The details

“Bloomsday” plays through February 2, 2020, at North Coast Repertory Theatre, 987 Lomas Santa Fe Drive in Solana Beach.

Wednesday at 7 p.m. (plus 2 p.m. Jan. 29); Thursday and Friday at 8 p.m. (plus 2 pm Jan. 25); Saturday at 2 and 8 pm; Sunday at 2 and 7 pm.