yesterday Bloomsdayday

Chico celebrates Bloomsday in grand style and I was no exception. Kyle came over at 6:00 with a twelve-pack of Guinness and a bottle of Bushmills. Angelica showed up at 6:30 and she and Erik (our roommate) ran out for dinner. We left at 7:00 — Kyle drove, bless him — and upon arrival at the Blue Room Theatre we found three perfect seats. I pulled three more Guinness from my big purse, popped the caps with my Staglin Family Vineyard corkscrew/bottle opener, and we drank.

The guy two seats over got Monstro’s attention. “Hey, I’m giving a toast during this. Can I borrow your bottle when the time comes?” (later, we were delighted to learn that Samuel Beckett was his role).

Fitz Smith started the evening with a lecture titled, “Who’s Who When Everybody’s Somebody Else,” a succinct syllabus of Ulysses, nothing I didn’t already know but I could tell that my theater partners were happy to hear it. 🙂

For “Sirens,” they opted for shadow-puppets — very clever and effective. Joe Hilsee blew me away with his narration. Dylan Latimer directed that segment and then segued in to his own commentary of the work, as the character of James Joyce, loyal-yet-fiesty Nora Barnacle (the always-a-treat Betty Burns) at his side.

Pound, Eliot, and Beckett offered toasts, and I swigged from the airline sample of Bushmills Irish Creme but did not finish it.

The raucus Motormouth Elliot, Steve Metzger, Matt Brown, Fitz Smith et all then claimed the stage as sailors (adorable) and sang 10 verses of “O, You New York Girls.” They’d printed the chorus in the program and we sang along lustily.

Frank Ficarra gave another scholarly lecture, reclaiming the stage with “Santanyana Revisited,” about which I remember little, because it was followed by “A Moral Pub,” adapted by Fitz, Directed by Mary Ann Latimer, and starring Paul Stout at Leopold Bloom. He was so Bloomish he didn’t even need to wear the bowler hat, which indeed he had foresworn. He was breathtaking; the best acting I’ve seen at the Blue Room, for certain.

Intermission — Monstro asked me for a Guinness and I bought him one, but by the time he returned he already had one, so I had to take it for Team Johnson.

Right as we were settling in for Act Two, some uncouth frat-boy’s phone rang, and it took more than a moment to realize that they were pounding their way on to the stage for the Steve Metzger interpretation of “Oxen of the Sun.” Very clever,  not so different from the chapter.  A good novel transcends time, especially in the hands of a gifted adapter, and Ulysses is no exception.

Denny Latimer promised us five but gave us 10 minutes of a musical, abridged version of Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, another one of Julie’s favorites, I remember. Clark Brown lectured on James Joyce and time, which was lovely and probably got Erik all excited because that’s the stuff upon which he wrote his Masters thesis.

A not-quite-right-key-but-nonetheless-enthusiastic version of “When Irish Eyes Are Smiling,” and then the pinnacle, Samantha Perry as Molly doing the last three pages of Molly’s soliloquy. This I was prepared to be harsh with but she was lovely.

Of course, ifshe’d done it with my interpretation she’d have been masturbating, as that’s how I’ve always read it, but every interpretation is a valid interpretation if you put enough mind and heart behind it.

So, a resounding “Yes!” to The Celtic Knights of the Sea for a magical evening of Joyce in a Parisian cafe more than 3000 miles from la ville des lumières. I’ll coin the expression “Blue Room Bliss,” which occurs when one is entertained like a Parisian while drinking like an Irishman. Highly, highly recommended.

Happy 100th birthday, June 16th, 1904. Thank God Mr. Joyce took Nora walking that day, the day she “made a man of me,” as the artist would say for the rest of his life — even though she hated his writing, didn’t understand a word of it, and was only happy that people bought it.

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