An Irish Heart’s Love Letter to ‘Bloomsday’
Photo Credit: Graphic by Andrea Klohn
small spaces of silence
in between borrowed breaths
at the whisper of a name
all the words of the heart
the unanswered questions
are at this moment
blue rolling waves
--Eileen Carney Hulme "Belonging"
Of all places across the wide world that best represent longing, it’s Ireland. The Emerald Isle with its grasses lush with green and its skies gorgeous in their slate greys. There is a dreamy nature to Ireland that makes it feel more fairyland than reality. No matter how I try nothing compares to that luscious island with its often gloomy skies, which felt like home the moment I saw it from a tiny plane window.
What more perfect place to set a play steeped in romantic notions and reminiscing?
Remy Bumppo’s Bloomsday, now playing at Theater Wit until June 22, is an exploration of time and place. For Robert and Cait, Dublin provides the opportunity to consider the “what ifs” of their lives. They get the chance to reimagine what life could have been if only they had done things differently.
There is no better place to sit with those thoughts than on a bench in the heart of Dublin.
It could be my own Irish heart longing to return to that impeccable isle, my affinity for Irish butter or the fact that Cait’s favorite biscuits come from a place called Finnerty’s (the only apt combo of my maiden/pen name Finn and my married name Haggerty.) Or it could simply be Steven Dietz’s enchanting storytelling that makes Bloomsday, well, bloom.
Entwined with Dublin’s own James Joyce’s Ulysses, hence the title Bloomsday after Joyce’s own June 16th fictional holiday, Bloomsday is far less dense. It’s an epic tale on a smaller scale, palatable for modern audiences which cannot be said for Joyce’s monolithic novel which follows an ordinary day in the life of Dubliner Leopold Bloom. (And no, not the one from The Producers although there is a Bloomsday joke hidden in there.)
Yeaji Kim’s projections, mere glimpses of the streets of Dublin, are enough to send the ficklest heart on wing. You could practically feel the misty ocean breeze or hear the birds gathering around a found treasure on O’Connell Street. I could practically see Caithleen’s tour group trying desperately to stay together.
For this American with Ireland in her very soul, Kim’s work sealed the deal for this production. Spot-on Irish accents aside (props to you Eva Breneman and Vahishta Vafadari) it takes more than a brogue to transform a space.
In an age when things seem to slip in the blink of an eye and when we can document our entire lives online, there is something soothing about taking a step back and thinking about our lives thus far. Is there anything we could have done differently? How? Why? Would you actually do things differently or are you happy with how things ended up?
To imagine those same questions a few decades from now is enough to cause panic. Who knows what I might look back on when I’m in my 70s. All we can do for the present is take it for what it is and make the most of our time. My brief stay in Ireland taught me that, but my even more brief stay in Bloomsday reiterated it.