North Coast Repertory Theatre’s San Diego premiere production of the fantasy drama, Bloomsday, deals with personal regret of a romantic nature.
A middle-aged American professor, Robert (Martin Kildare), travels to Dublin Ireland, to talk to a tour guide from his past, Caithleen (Rachel Weck). She leads tours, that are focused on locations used in James Joyce’s modernist novel, Ulysses.
It’s soon clear that Robert is from the present and he is disappointed that he never was in a long-term relationship with the Dubliner when they met 35 years prior. Not only does Robert interact with Caithleen and a younger version of himself, known as Robbie (Hunter Saling), but an older version of Caithleen, Cait (Jacquelyn Ritz), goes back in time to change the present as well.
Steven Dietz’s writing is strong when it concerns the relationship between Robbie and Caithleen. Their eventual extended interaction, which largely makes up act two, is full of delightful and witty dialogue. Audiences are invested in the fate of the potential couple, since Dietz showcases the attraction between the tourist and the tour guide.
An element of the script that’s not as effective is the time traveling element of the plot. Robert’s interactions with Caithleen and Robbie generally do not move the story forward.
His desperate attempts to alter the past are too reminiscent of classic time travel adventures. Some theatregoers might like how the older and younger characters talk to each other, yet act two is superior to the 35-minute act one, since the time travel aspects are downplayed.
Dietz deserves credit for an equally humorous and bittersweet conversation that Cait shares with Caithleen about her future, and Robert and Cait are amusing when they reminisce about the past and think about the present to themselves.Andrew Barnicle’s direction for act one is intentionally restrained, since his staging focuses on monologues and discussions by Dietz. In act two, Barnicle effectively works with set designer, Marty Burnett, and projectionist, Aaron Rumley, to depict a variety of different places in Ireland, as sparks fly between Robbie and Caithleen.
Instrumental music used in Rumley’s audio also contributes to the remorseful and melancholy tone of the tale.
Barnicle’s ensemble richly portrays contrasting personalities, with Kildare and Saling, and Ritz and Weck as two people at different stages of life. Kildare and Ritz play their parts with wisdom and insight, while Saling and Weck act like they are still maturing as young adults.
Though the time travel elements will work for certain audiences more than others, the romantic components of Bloomsday are universally engaging. Dietz’s show, at the North Coast Rep, is a solid way to celebrate Valentine’s Day early.
Show times are Wednesdays at 2:00 p.m and 7:00 p.m, Thursdays at 8:00 p.m, Fridays at 8:00 p.m, Saturdays at 2:00 p.m and 8:00 p.m and Sundays at 2:00 p.m and 7:00 p.m.