Bloomsday transcends its preposterous plot with nuanced musings on age and regret | Theater Review | Chicago Reader

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Bloomsday transcends its preposterous plot with nuanced musings on age and regret

It should be a trainwreck, but it's not, just so long as you put your intellect on hold.

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A stranger walks up to you. They know your name, where you've been, where you're headed, what you'll do there, and how your life will turn out decades in the future. If you're human, you back away slowly and get the bejesus out of there. If you're a character in an inadequately vetted play by habitually credulity-challenged Steven Dietz, you ask the stranger for directions, or advice, or sympathy. You even reveal intimate details about your deepest insecurities within a few minutes of meeting.

To enjoy Dietz's 2015 play—and believe it or not, there is much to enjoy in director J.R. Sullivan's supple, contemplative staging for Remy Bumppo—you've got to put your intellect on hold. That's especially true given its strained time-travel conventions, in which (take a deep breath) 55-year-old Robert returns to Dublin and meets his 20-year-old self on the very day he met 20-year-old Irish native Caithleen, his imagined great love who got away, whose 55-year-old self has also returned in search of her and Robert's younger selves. The generations mostly interact in real time, except when they're inexplicably invisible to each other. James Joyce references abound.

It should be a train wreck, but somehow it's not, so long as you ignore everything except Dietz's nuanced musings about age, youth, regret, nostalgia, yearning, and self-recrimination. Sullivan's exemplary cast imbues the potentially preposterous story with such warmth and candor you may find yourself taking stock of your own greatest missed opportunities and heading home with a massive lump in your throat.   v

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