A Unique Relationship With Time at Next Act
Next Act Theatre powerfully radiates romantic drama into the warmer weather this year as it presents Steven Dietz’ wonderfully bewildering Bloomsday. Youth and experience zigzag across the stage as an older couple interact with the younger couple they once were decades ago on an ill-fated romantic encounter in Dublin.
Rick Rasmussen’s set is an earthbound Dublin gently scattered onto the stage. A classy, old building vanishes midway across the stage amidst a few Irish signs off in the distance. The brick streets gather the footfalls of four lovers at two different ends of time. There isn’t much in the way of sound to distract from the voices and respirations of the ensemble. Norman Moses introduces the thing in the role of a man who is witnessing a young girl beginning her James Joyce tour of Dublin (patterned after a walk made by a protagonist in Ulysses.) The older man is there to see the tour guide he had fallen in love with when he was a young man.
Older man and younger woman have a strange exchange. There’s aspects of the paranormal about the script which are fun to follow. Jordan Watson is heroically vulnerable in the role of the young tour guide--a woman suffering from a rather unique relationship with time that plays like a spectral precognition but feels like something more. In a way it’s a romantic fantasy. Watson is quite admirable in the role...playing the character’s strengths as weaknesses and her weaknesses as strengths that make her a perfectly haunting romantic lead. Kyle Curry is similarly heroic in the role of Moses’ character in youth. He’s a man living in the moment looking to run away with the tour guide: a woman plagued by knowledge of a future which is ever-present.
Time can weigh heavily on an end of a meaningful connection between two people. Taken as something of a dreamy fugue, the romance can overtake everything and simply be a wistful Irish musing. The fantasy ends of the script can be quite a fun little pathway for those looking for something more, though. Of particular interest here is a conversation between the young tour guide and her older self as played by Carrie Hitchcock. Watson and Hitchcock play two different versions of the same person from decades apart. The two actresses do a cunningly convincing job of rendering a woman talking to herself.
It’s never really made explicit in the script, but Hitchcock’s older version of the woman would have theoretically remembered what it was like to be the younger woman being approached by her older self for the conversation. Hitchcock actually manages a bit of familiarity in the scene that is slyly subtle in a way that seems to reach beyond the script. It’s fun to get a chance to geek out about the specifics of a paranormal affliction which may or may not be just a creative way of the playwright expressing the nature of human emotion. Still--the lead woman in this show is every bit as fascinating as some of the more memorable pre-cogs in sci-fi. Present in two different actresses onstage, she’s got kind of limited glimpses into the future. Dr. Manhattan from Alan Moore’s Watchmen (one of the most compelling renderings of time and human emotion I’ve ever read) had more of an even understanding of time. Like the character here, all time kind of existed at once for him, but he could see EVERYTHING. Hitchcock/Watson’s character has a bit more tragically in common with the figures in Philip K. Dick’s original 1956 short story, “The Minority Report.” She’s only given brief glimpses into the future which become very much a part of her present. Unlike PKDs precogs from that story, she has a life outside her visions of the future, but she willingly chooses to live on the same circuit around the same city over and over again as it was present in a single work of fiction. It keeps things easy for her to keep them at a distance. Given her condition, this is entirely understandable. Things need to be safe and stable for her even as she dreams of a life a bit less pre-determined. It’s fascinating stuff to think about.
So it’s a bit more than a standard romance. There’s so much else to think about here. The romance is haunting, but that conversation between a woman and herself is really satisfying urban contemporary fantasy. Hitchcock and Watson are playing a woman who has a relationship with time which would make Einstein and Hawking shrug at each other in exasperation and they’re playing it with compelling believability. It’s a fun scene that elevates the romance to something more than mere romance.
Next Act’s production of Bloomsday runs through Apr. 30 at the Next Act Theatre on 255 S. Water St. For ticket reservations and more, visit Next Act online.