Stories of chance encounters that blossom into more — or don’t and stay suspended in time — are often beautifully explored in books and films.
Who could forget the undeniable connection between train travelers played by Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy in Richard Linklater’s 1995 classic “Before Sunrise?”
Then in 2001’s “Serendipity,” characters portrayed by Kate Beckinsale and John Cusack meet at a Bloomingdale’s, during the holiday season, where they both attempt to buy the same pair of black cashmere gloves. Sparks fly, but alas they both are spoken for. Beckinsale’s character suggests that one write their name and phone number on a $5 bill and the other on the front endpaper of a copy of the novel “Love in the Time of Cholera.” Down the road, if each recovers the other’s item, then they are meant to be.
Complex narratives of finding love, losing it and perhaps regaining it again seem to surface in romantic comedies and literary classics. In Boulder Ensemble Theatre Company’s “Bloomsday,” running at the Dairy center through March 1, attendees can delight in the unlikely and unexpected romance found within a moment in time.
In the play, directed by Jada Suzanne Dixon, Robert returns to Dublin to reunite with Cait, the woman who captured his heart during a James Joyce literary tour 35 years earlier. The older couple retraces their steps to discover their younger selves — Robbie and Caithleen.
The production, marked with a bit of mystical time travel, takes audiences to the cobblestone streets, park benches and pubs of Ireland and gives a glimpse of the events that ultimately led the two to cross paths years ago, albeit briefly.
“In 2013, I was reading — or doing my level best to read — Joyce’s ‘Ulysses’ on a trip with my family to Ireland,” said Steven Dietz, playwright of “Bloomsday.” “While in Dublin, I learned about the ‘Bloomsday’ tours of the city — and briefly met a young man who was leading one of these tours. I was struck with the notion of being in Dublin as a middle-aged man, and began to wonder what my younger self may have encountered if I’d been there 30 years earlier. That — and the deep, gorgeous ache of that city — were the first flickerings of what would become ‘Bloomsday.’”
The Irish love story is sure to appeal to a cross-section of viewers.
“It’s been my experience that young audience members, perhaps inevitably, sign on to the adventure of the romance, the love story and older audience members — like the characters of Robert and Cait in the play — view this same love story with greater nostalgia,” Dietz said.
Rich with the bittersweet essence of fleeting moments and the resurfacing concept of “what if,” “Bloomsday” is sure to spark a range of emotions in theatre-goers.
“All the times of our life are alive in us, always,” Dietz said. “That includes multiple pasts — the one we remember, the one that actually happened and multiple futures, what we imagine is still to come. Thus we are always, I think, in the midst of a reunion. Not only with our loved ones, but with ourselves. Regret is certainly baked into this equation. And if you do not have some excellent regrets in middle-age, you have perhaps not been paying attention.”
Dietz, who has penned and produced plays for 35 years, is often referred to as “the most ubiquitous American playwright whose name you may never have heard.” His new psychological thriller, “How a Boy Falls,” will simultaneously run at Chicago’s Northlight Theatre through Feb. 29.
“It’s always a pleasure to produce a play from someone whose voice has helped shape American theater for decades,” said Stephen Weitz, BETC’s producing artistic director. “I’ve had the pleasure of working on his material before, but as a producer, I’m delighted to share Steven Dietz’s work for the first time with our audience. It’s particularly gratifying since he is from Denver and we are able to share the work of a local boy done good.”
Like many of the previous offerings BETC has brought to the stage, “Bloomsday” reaches deep down to engage audiences with humor, wit and inevitably the sting of heartache that coincides with pining.
“Every audience member will be able to make connections to their own lives and personal histories,” Weitz said. “Each one of us can remember decisive moments in our life when things might have taken a turn in a different direction. Those moments may be tinged with longing or regret, but most importantly, they serve as reminders to relish each moment and each connection we find with other people.”
If you go
What: BETC’s “Bloomsday” by Steven Dietz
When: 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. multiple dates through March 1
Where: Grace Gamm Theater at Dairy Arts Center, 2590 Walnut St., Boulder
More info: betc.org