Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Steven Dietz “Bloomsday”, Charms At North Coast Repertory Theatre

In Playwright Steven Dietz “Bloomsday”, currently in a charming and reflective production at North Coast Repertory Theatre though Feb. 2nd, Robert (Martin Kildare), a handsome and rather distinguished fifty something year old former professor tells the audience ‘that "Ulysses” is the most under-read and over praised piece of doggerel ever hemorrhaged onto the world! Don’t take my word for it.  Ask half the critics and every college sophomore on earth.’

Thank goodness I don’t recall reading it from top to bottom and if I did, that memory is no longer available to me. And that’s not to be confused with -of course I must have read it in my college days struggling through Greek Mythology. Let’s face it folks, that was over fifty years ago and today I’m happy remembering going to college.
Martin Kildare, Rachel Weck, Hunter Saling
Playwright Dietz last entered the scene at North Coast Rep’s with this theatre’s San Diego premiere of “This Random World” where it made an impact on audiences when we learned our leading lady, Scottie was dead, yet we can see her spirit living on in a series of short vignettes where she brings each of the surviving characters in her life closer to one another.  

“This Random World” might be Beshert, or serendipity.

“Bloomsday”, now in a regional premiere, might fit into the world of ‘what was, what is, and what might have been’. Some might see it as a time travel story. (I’m fascinated with that whole concept.) Some might look at it as missed opportunities, others capricious and predictable. I’m satisfied with charming, excellently acted, with direction by seasoned and keen director Andrew Barnicle, intriguing, absorbing and left with a feeling that I could see it again.

Bloomsday, June 16, is when Dubliner’s celebrate… a single day in the life of three residents of Dublin:  a young writer named Stephen Dedalus; his friend Leopold Bloom and Blooms wife, Molly… and includes Leopold’s walk through Dublin.” It has become a tradition in Dublin and elsewhere to retrace protagonist Bloom’s pilgrimage for those so inclined.

Back to Robert who, after twenty -five years of teaching Ulysses and thirty five years after meeting Caithleen, has returned to Dublin on Bloomsday. This time around he recalls a time when he was a mere pup, then known as Robbie (Hunter Saling) and in his twenties and of one who knew nothing of Ulysses or Joyce.
Rachel Weck, Jacquelyn Ritz and Martin Kildare
Here and over the course of the play he remembers the circumstances when he happened on a tour lead by a beautiful young colleen, Caithleen (Rachel Weck). On that day, June 16, to be exact, superstitious Caithleen invited him to join the tour, “James Joyce’s Dublin”, so there wouldn’t be thirteen in the group. He made up the fourteenth. By now he was almost smitten as was she.

And here’s where we take off and head down the roads taken and not, to another time when the older Robert meets up with his younger self and Caithleen’s or Cait’s older self (Jacquelyn Ritz). What comes into play, in bits and pieces, are unknown revelations about her future, that might have been predictable had we seen it happen over the years, that proved to be right.  

As narrator of his own story the focus on the four moves back and forth in time. Robert becomes the know all, tell all master of all that he remembers as having happened, what’s left behind and possibly what could have been.

Dietz’s idea of giving truth (or not) to a story as old as time where love is in bloom but goes unfulfilled and where love is found but through unpredictable circumstances is lost and faded memories can only recall what should have, could have, would have been, is enhanced by the first-rate ensemble work of the four actors on stage.

Sun tanned and appealing Martin Kildare won me over from the start. His relaxed, engaging and easy delivery and ability to know the future but unable to change it, convinced.

As his younger self, Hunter Saling’s Robbie is the perfect choice; one with indifference to what might be ahead, the happy go lucky come what may attitude or ‘whatever’ brought a credibility to his character.

The two women Rachel Weck in perfect Irish accent, at least to my ears, again the exact right choice (a newcomer to NCR) to the serious, concerned about her future well being as Caithleen again won me over with her easy and persuasive style.
Martin Kildare and Jacquelyn Ritz
Jacquelyn Ritz, no stranger to NCR serves up some beautiful and wistfulness and wish-fullness of the fate of her character.

What was present to yours truly was the overall feeling of sadness and yearning at stories end, especially for Robert, by wanting another ending yet knowing full well that life gets in the way even as we watch it happen, of some otherwise happy endings.

Marty Burnett designed the brick buildings with ivy- covering each wall. Benches and tables with chairs wheeled in serve as meeting places and different locations, alleyways etc.  They are enhanced by Matt Novotny’s lighting and Aaron Rumley’s sound and projections designs. Renetta Lloyd’s clothes are indicative of the moving time frames. 
Hunter Saling, Jacquelyn Ritx Martin Kildare and Rachel Weck

And on another note in the Playbill: “Bloomsday” is an annual pseudo-intellectual excuse to get hammered in the daytime”.

Have fun with this. I’ll give it  two thumbs up!

See you at the theatre.

Dates: Through Feb. 2nd
Organization: North Coast Repertory Theatre
Phone: 858-481-1055
Production Type: Fantasy/Comedy
Where: 987 Lomas Santa Fe Drive, Solana Beach, CA
Ticket Prices: Start at $46.00
Photo Credit: Aaron Rumley

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