Annual Bloomsday celebration of music and drama


Fans of Irish writer James Joyce around the world celebrate June 16, which they call Bloomsday after Leopold Bloom, the hero of Joyce’s novel “Ulysses.”

June 16 is the day in 1904 when the fictional events of the novel are imagined to take place. This year’s Arts and Society (AS) show will be shown at the Katharine Cornell Theatre on June 16 at 8 pm. The AS versions, produced by John Crelan, may be the oldest continuous celebration of Bloomsday on the planet, presented annually in Boston and on Martha’s Vineyard since 1979, predating the famous Dublin extravaganza by three years.

According to a press release, this year’s program will begin with jazz renderings by John Alaimo and Eric Johnson. A medley of Victorian/Irish songs will feature the voices of Katrina Nevin, Buck Reidy, and Anna Yukevich — with Phil Dietterich on piano. Lia Kahler will sing two songs by Samuel Barber set to poems by Joyce.

This year’s drama selections might be subtitled “the best of Bloomsday,” as they will feature dramatic monologues by Gerry Yukevich and Natalie Rose that wowed audiences in earlier years.

Every year Mr. Yukevich — Vineyard physician, actor, writer, and long-time Bloomsday participant — chooses a story from “Dubliners” to present as a dramatic monologue, always one of the high points of the show. This year Dr. Yukevich has chosen a scene from “The Dead,” a tour de force to which the Vineyard audience reacted enthusiastically in 2007. The excerpt is a challenging assignment. After leaving a family party, Gabriel and his wife, Gretta, go to a hotel, where Gabriel learns that when Gretta was a young girl, she knew a boy who, she thinks, died for love of her. Gretta’s grief, long hidden from Gabriel, pours out, and Gabriel’s reactions change from desire to jealousy to compassion to gloom. The scene in the hotel room involves very little physical action, and Dr. Yukevich conveys a wide range of emotions using only his voice.

Mr. Crelan’s Bloomsday shows always end with Molly Bloom’s soliloquy from near the end of “Ulysses.” As Mr. Crelan once told The Times, “You have to have a Molly. People expect it.” There have been many excellent Mollys in the AS shows, each with her own interpretation, but Ms. Rose’s interpretation last year may have been the best of them all. Molly, Leopold Bloom’s wife, has been awakened in the early hours of June 17 and asked to provide breakfast. Dressed in her nightdress, frowzy and sleepy at first, her moods change as she grumbles to herself about her life. When Molly is an angry wife, bitter about her husband’s demands and infidelities, Ms. Rose’s face clouded and her steps across the stage were heavy and assertive, her voice bitterly sarcastic. When Molly thinks about her girlhood and her romances, Ms. Rose’s face lit up with the recollections of young love and exciting places, her arms and body made light, extravagant gestures, and her voice was young again and eager.

Molly alone is worth the price of a ticket.

Arts and Society presents Bloomsday, June 16 at 8 pm, at the Katharine Cornell Theatre, Vineyard Haven. All tickets are $15 and may be purchased at the door.