Revisiting a Day and a Lifetime
Have you ever wished you could go back in time and change an important decision you made in your life? Haven’t we all?
In Stephen Dietz’s Bloomsday, opening at Next Act Theatre under the direction of Joseph Hanreddy, the audience gets to imagine doing just that. The play follows a young man and women and an older couple as they stumble around modern day Dublin while the city is in full-blown celebration of a timeless piece of Irish literature, a book as thick as the Bible. This timeless novel is James Joyce’s Ulysses, a sprawling epic that recounts a day in the life of an Irishman named Leopold Bloom.
Bloomsday is an eye-opening and mesmerizing play that uncovers past love and regret, all through the eyes of four characters. Like Ulysses, Bloomsday focuses on just one day, although there may be a few surprises along the way.
On the actual Bloomsday, celebrated every June in Dublin, the Irish and many others who travel to Dublin from all across the world follow the route of the comings and goings of Leopold Bloom, the fictional character that Joyce created. That’s where the play’s story begins. It’s Bloomsday in Dublin, and Caithleen (here played by Jordan Watson), a 20-year-old local tour guide of all things Ulysses, meets the 20-year-old Robbie (Kyle Curry) who isn’t exactly aware of what Ulysses is. Robbie is much more taken with the tour guide than with Joyce and he attempts to strike up a relationship with Caithleen. Carrie Hitchcock and Norman Moses step in as the older versions of the characters, and what follows is not only humorous but emotionally compelling. Bloomsday is likely a play that you won’t forget quickly.
“Whether or not you are a romantic, this play deals with characters feeling as though they had one chance to take,” says director Joseph Hanreddy. Hanreddy not only enjoyed the script when Next Act’s Artistic Director David Cecsarini asked him to read and consider directing it; he was also able to connect with it on a deeply emotional level. “I like the idea of whether or not you can go back and change something in your past. The main character in this play is actively wishing he can change things. Our life is a series of forks and decisions and we live with the ramifications of these choices,” says Hanreddy. “There’s always that temptation to go back and relive a certain moment. You make compatibility, as much as it is presented to you. And I believe every single person deals with finding their life partner and wondering if it is the right one.”
Bloomsday has a clever and unique structure that will keep the audience on their toes throughout. This is thanks to playwright Stephen Dietz, who has a long career writing and directing plays across the globe. Not only do the playwright and director know each other, but Dietz and Hanreddy have worked together many times before. “We’ve worked together on eight, maybe nine productions thus far, and we remain personal friends as well,” Hanreddy recalls.
Hanreddy has been busy since he left the Milwaukee Repertory Theater six years ago directing shows across the country. He expressed his delight to be working in Milwaukee again. “I have been a fan of Next Act Theatre and of the way they have paid attention to local work,” Hanreddy says. “No matter where I am I like to come down and see them. Milwaukee has a wonderful theater community.”
Hanreddy spoke highly of Dietz during my visit to his quaint East Side home. “Stephen always finds these little delights within the story that draw you in,” he remarks, laughing. “He’s incredibly theatrically inventive.”
Bloomsday touches ideas that exist within everyone’s consciousness. Although the narrative involves just a few people in modern day Dublin, it is a story we can all relate to and connect with deeply. “It is immediate even if it happened long ago,” Hanreddy says with a twinkle in his eye. “The story is timeless.”
Bloomsday runs April 6-30 at Next Act Theatre, 255 S. Water St. For tickets visit NextAct.org or call 414-278-0765.