Vol. 13, No. 9 – Jan 29 – Feb 11, 2020 – A View from House Seats

by Shirley Lorraine

Transport’s “Bloomsday” captivates

Every so often Transport Theatre Company gets back on the boards. Through February 2, they are back, full force. A theater company without a permanent home, their current production of “Bloomsday” by Steven Dietz is playing a limited run on the south stage of the Elite Theater in Oxnard.

Transport, founded in 2006 by Artistic Director Linda Livingston and Producer John Procter, has continually, albeit sporadically in time, mounted superior theatrical experiences. Bloomsday is no exception.

The four-member cast is superb. Chandra Bond and Trent Trachtenberg handle the roles chronicling when and how Caithleen and Robbie first meet. John D. Reinhart and Linda Livingston embody the same characters after 35 years have passed. The ensemble is outstanding as we witness what could have been, perhaps what should have been, and how life ultimately played out for the two.

The background of the play is James Joyce’s novel Ulysses. Robbie is visiting Dublin, Ireland, when by chance he is approached by Caithleen, a tour guide who is in need of a “fourteenth” member to even out her tour attendance. The tour covers areas of Joyce’s life and adventures, many of which are reflected in his novel. Along the way Robbie and Caithleen find themselves revealing themselves to each other, creating a strong bond. The very Irish Caithleen (speaking in what to my ears is a superb Irish dialect), in the end, cannot be as spontaneous as Robbie would like, and thus they part.

The grown-up Robbie (John D. Reinhart) semi narrates what went before, to the confusion of the younger couple. Grown-up Caithleen (Linda Livingston) also enters to help her younger self understand why some things happened and how they could have played out differently had choices been made. The premise can be a bit confusing in the beginning, but clarity emerges as the play progresses.

As noted in the program, “Bloomsday celebrates the novel, its author, and the characters’ lives”. First celebrated in 1954, the commemorative event occurs in Dublin annually on June 16, the day the novel Ulysses takes place in 1904. It is named after the protagonist Leopold Bloom. Considered a literary street festival, participants frequently dress in period attire and readings from Joyce’s work are performed. Attendees also walk to pubs and locations noted in the book. It is this that the “tour” in the play mirrors.

The setting is simple. A few seating areas, a few sheer scrims behind which the actors can pass as though transcending time. The venue is intimate so the audience (well, I did, anyway) felt thoroughly involved in the tour as well as the back story.

Quite a bit of humor emerges through the lines, enhanced by the actors’ clear understanding of how to play their characters to the fullest. Director Tom Mueller expressed his delight at the actor’s abilities to inhabit the roles so completely. Overall, I found it to be a compelling experience.

Bloomsday runs until Feb 2 at the Elite Theater, 2731 Victoria Ave, Oxnard (Channel Islands). Tickets available at www.BrownPaperTickets.com. Runs Fri and Saturday at 8 p.m., Sunday at 2 p.m. All seats $22. Seating is limited so reservations are recommended.

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