I thoroughly enjoyed Bloomsday at the West End Players Guild. Explaining why, however, is a challenge.
My delight as viewer and difficulty as a reviewer come from the same source: the unusual presentation of time in the play by Steven Dietz. Saying too much about the interpretation I’ve arrived at may prevent others from experiencing the play as I did.
The first two characters we meet are Robert, a 55-year-old American, and Caithleen, a 20-year Dubliner who is about a lead a tour of places depicted James Joyce’s celebrated novel, Ulysses. They can speak to each other, but Robert can also speak to the audience.
We learn from him that the Caithleen we see is the one he met 35 years ago. Something happened within him, he says, after she first spoke to him.
How can present-day Robert interact with Caithleen in the past? Robert explains this curious phenomenon by passing along something he heard from Caithleen when they met and is only now beginning to understand: “to her, Time is not a series of neat single notes called ‘the present’—one played after another. No, to her Time is a chord: many notes, past-present-future, all real…all alive…and all played at once.”
The remaining two characters are Robert’s younger self, Robbie, and Caithleen’s older self, Cait. The chords of time in the play include a variety of meetings among these characters in both the past and the present. Little by little, the play reveals what happened on the day Robbie and Caithleen met and why it had lasting effects on both Robert and Cait.
The excellent cast is fully in tune with their characters’ emotions in every permutation of their encounters. Jeff Lovell captures Robert’s frustration over lost opportunity, while Colleen Heneghan invests Cait with a striking aura of hard-won wisdom. John Trotwood Moore as Robbie and Megan Wiegert as Caithleen epitomize the joys and anxieties of young love.
Jessa Knust’s direction brings clarity to the action at all times represented in the play. Her blocking helpfully incorporates the area in front of the stage as well as the stage itself in the downstairs theater in the Union Avenue Christian Church.
The centerpiece of the set is a beautiful street scene painted by Marjorie Williamson and Morgan Maul-Smith. Adding to the visual and aural interest are Tracey Newcomb’s costumes, Jacob Winslow’s lighting, Ted Drury’s sound, and Jackie Aumer’s props.
According to Wikipedia, “Dietz has long been one of America’s most prolific and widely produced playwrights.” I’m not at all surprised.
Photo by John Lamb