You can’t talk about “Bloomsday,” the new show at the B Street Theatre, without acknowledging the sprawling, stream-of-consciousness novel “Ulysses” by James Joyce, in the same sense that you can’t talk about a famous Charles Dickens classic without mentioning Christmas. So here’s the famous first sentence of “Ulysses,” read by scholar Frank Delaney.
“Stately, plump Buck Mulligan came from the stairhead, bearing a bowl of lather on which a mirror and a razor lay crossed.”
Joyce’s language isn’t easily absorbed, and “Ulysses” runs 700 pages-plus.
But “Ulysses” is a literary landmark that many college students hear about. And tourists by the million visit Dublin, going on tours to personally experience the pubs and streets Joyce described.
The play “Bloomsday,” by Steven Dietz, presents two young, single people, who are attracted to each other during one of these Dublin tours. In addition, the play involves the older-but-wiser middle-aged versions of the same young man and woman, transported back through time.
The middle-aged guy wants to warn his younger self that he’s about to make a BIG mistake. The middle-aged guy has lived to regret a brief, lost opportunity for romance that he didn’t pursue as a young man. He goes into a reverie when he spots the young girl he fell for, saying “That’s how she looked, when I first met her, 35 years ago. She as 20… a wise, knowing, vibrant 20. I was also 20… a stupid, clueless, arrogant 20…”
So the middle-aged guy chats up his younger self, telling him he’s just seen the girl that the young guy is seeking – and then pointing out that he saw the young man and the girl parting ways, adding “I think it was something you said…” The young man asks “How did you know that?”
The young version of the girl is likewise spooked when the older version lets on she’s aware the young version has just met a special guy.
This dual-era romance grows gradually over two acts, which are really fun to watch. We also learn what became of the young lovers in later life. The ending offers a glimmer of hope.This production features solid acting and good direction, and being a play set in Ireland, there’s some lovely, poetic language. All in all, it’s a beguiling story of youthful love mingled with a splash of retrospective regret. And if you’ve ever wished you could go back and have a second chance at a decision you made back in your 20s, this winsome tale will simmer in your mind long after the the play ends.