An intimate, Irish, time-travel love story
This one's for the romantics, the dreamers, the lovers of love stories with a bittersweet tone that, ultimately, give way to sweetness alone. That's what I found Next Act Theatre's Bloomsday to be — so very sweet. I've been lucky to see a lot of theater (relative to some) this season in Milwaukee, and I've been blown away plenty. Our city is ripe with talent and forward-thinking theater companies staging stories that are timely and thought-provoking, often times highlighting a social or political issue that leaves you feeling a little heavy.
Bloomsday, on the other hand, is a refreshing journey to the past — the intimate past of two people, Cait and Robert, who spent one unforgettable day together in Dublin. Being one of the aforementioned romantics myself, I found Steven Dietz's play to be so completely inspiring. The prose itself it beautifully written — the kind of words you get wonderfully lost in. The staging at the Next Act lived up to the charm of these words, first with excellent performances and second, with the set itself — a delightful Dublin square.
While the story centers on just two people, four actors bring these characters to life. Jordan Watson and Carrie Hitchcock play young Caithleen and older Cait, respectively, and Kyle Curry and Norman Moses play young Robbie and older Robert, respectively. You have to suspend your disbelief and questions of space-time relations in the world of Bloomsday and accept the circumstances for the magic that they are. We're swept away to a day 35 years in the past, when Robbie fell for Caithleen on a James Joyce literary tour.
Watson plays Caithleen with such spunk and charm, I think the audience must fall for her nightly, as Robbie does. Curry's young Robbie captures that strange essence of a twenty-something boy — clueless, but adorably irresistible. Perhaps not surprisingly, as Bloomsday shows us the wisdom that comes with age, Norman Moses and Carrie Hitchcock positively shone as Robert and Cait. Both exude such ease and effortless storytelling, making it easy to sink into Dietz's gorgeous words.
I especially loved Cait's telling of how, when people leave us, we have to put them somewhere in our hearts. "My ma I put in a chair near the south window, with a good quilt on her lap," she says. "Not too close — I don't want her grabbin' at me every time she needs something — but near enough that I can hear her sweet laugh." Cait's many musings on the future also struck me. "Every woman knows the future if she's got the nerve to look!" she says — but "askin' a boy to see his future is like askin' a mole to see the stars."
Poetic, resonating — there are so many moments like this in Bloomsday. Nostalgic, beautifully melancholy moments. It's these moments that inspire us to act — to grab what we love in the present and press on toward the future. If only we could meet our younger selves and show them a bit of kindness. What might our futures hold?
Bloomsday is playing at Next Act Theatre through April 30th. Information and tickets at nextact.org.
*Photos by Ross Zentner