It’s the old story of boy-meets-girl, boy-loses-girl, boy-goes-back-for-girl too late in Bloomsday, Steven Dietz’s new play that illuminates James Joyce’s Ulysses while cleverly mocking, paraphrasing—and evoking—what is generally regarded as one of the greatest literary works ever written.
Ulysses is “the most underread and overpraised” novel in the world, explains the protagonist Robert (Dave Pierini). And yet, he knows every word and nuance of the epic because of a young Irish tour guide he met 35 years earlier. He was known as Robbie then, and she was Caithleen (Steve Sherman and Brittni Barger, respectively).
So here he is today (whenever that is supposed to be), back in Dublin looking for the girl, now grown-up and known as Cait (Rebecca Dines), who changed—perhaps ruined—his life.
Like Joyce, Dietz manipulates time and space, bending each upon itself as he goes from past to present, Robert to Robbie, Caithleen to Cait, and who knows what or when. It’s intricate and fascinating, wistful, hopeful and ultimately too melancholic for words with its exploration of images that remain and memories of what was and might have been.
Robert personifies the wisdom of age, how one might make peace with the past and its lost opportunities while still feeling the pain of regret. In this role, Pierini is first among equals in an outstanding cast.
Director Elisabeth Nunziato understands these four characters and directs with empathy for each of them. She moves them and their lives gently through time and space, keeping things as simple as can be in a time-warp story with characters who meet, converse and interact with themselves.