4 out of 4 stars
Bloomsday is June 16th, but Remy Bumppo Theatre Company is presenting Steven Dietz’s lyrical love story Bloomsday now through June 22nd at Theater Wit. Set against the backdrop of Dublin and James Joyce’s groundbreaking novel Ulysses, Robbie and Caithleen explore one fateful day that set ripples through time.
For those unfamiliar with Joyce’s most famous work, Ulysses is loosely based on the Odyssey in that it follows ordinary Dubliners in 1904 through a single day. You do not have to have read the behemoth novel to understand this production. I have never read it and from this production I could gather the mirrored context and themes Dietz stems from Joyce into a work of his own with the shifting of timelines and perspectives. It is extremely well written and keeps you locked in from start to finish.
The production was beautifully set by Jack Magaw. The cobbled streets and antiqued lampposts with charming industrial elements heightening the worker town of Dublin, as well as the mystique in the mundane. Exposed lightbulbs, simple setting and use of eclectic sized framing to project a Dublin city corner, an idyllic garden and a blurry rained pub window. The projections design by Yeaji Kim were well done and paired perfectly with the mismatched, yet perfectly intentional scenic design. The best of a simplistic approach layered in subtle meaning to enhance the overall theme of the production is always one of the best examples of heightening theater experience without being over the top.
Directed by J.R. Sullivan, Remy Bumppo Core Ensemble Members Annabel Armour (Cait) and Shawn Douglass (Robert) along with Jack DeCesare (Robbie) and Bryce Gangel (Caithleen) transports the audience into the compassionate world of history, humor, and heartache. Amour and Douglass serve as these future selves outside of time wistfully commentating on DeCesare and Gangel’s young naïve characters. Douglass encapsulates the perfect balance of berated frustration and melancholy regret in an older version looking back upon his decisions. All four actors’ characters are intertwined throughout the work and all play so well off each other. The dynamics between selves and each other is enchanting and filled with humor. Gangel’s portrayal was particularly enjoyable as a frantically dreamy eyed young woman being her own worst enemy – something I can definitely personally identify with. The costuming by Mieka van der Ploeg was well structured – each pair complimented their counterparts through time like the florals for Caithleen/Cait, as well as the opposite – traditional tourist ensemble with the classic 90’s denim jacket, dress and boots outfit.
This production holds such universal truths in age, romance and growing pains. Beautifully written and beautifully performed!
Remy Bumppo Theatre Company’s production of BLOOMSDAY will be performed May 16 – June 22, 2019 at Theater Wit on 1229 W. Belmont Avenue in Chicago. Single tickets are on sale at www.RemyBumppo.org or by calling the Theater Wit Box Office at 773.975.8150.
Mary Crylen is a photographer and writer based in Chicago. She is an alum of Southern Illinois University of Carbondale with dual degrees in English and Photography. She possesses a sincere passion for the arts and believes zeal shows through work. Follow her on Twitter!