Natalie Rose in "Ulysses": Photo by Ralph Stewart
Natalie Rose became Molly, from Ulysses, in a captivating performance last Friday at Katharine Cornell Theater. Photo by Ralph Stewart

Bloomsday at Katharine Cornell

By Tony Omer - June 22, 2006

The new comfortable seats at The Katharine Cornell Theater in Vineyard Haven were practically filled Friday with people who were there to hear pieces of works by probably the least read yet most well known of Irish writers. For 28 years now Islander John Creland - writer, librarian, teacher, tennis and basketball player - has staged the Bloomsday Celebration to honor the life, the work, and the heritage of Irish novelist James Joyce. The entire show was based on the texts of Joyce's writings.

Bloomsday events are staged around the world on or about June 16, the single day on which the events in his novel "Ulysses" take place. Some consider Joyce to be the most influential "modernist writer," and Joyce's works of fiction are fixtures in the canon of "modernist" literature. In his most well known works, "Dubliners," "A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man," "Ulysses," and "Finnegan's Wake," Joyce moves from the mostly external world that had characterized fiction to an inner world of seemingly random associations, which were in fact carefully constructed memory maps with classical allusions, incorporating the sights and sounds of Joyce's Ireland and Dublin in particular.

Composer, musician, and MVRHS teacher Elizabeth Straton opened the show with haunting renditions of Celtic music. Her beautiful vocal stylings were the perfect introduction for what followed.

Gerry Yukevich in "Dubliners": Photo by Ralph Stewart
Gerry Yukevich's performance of Araby from James Joyce's Dubliners was stunning.

This year's show featured a thoroughly engaging performance of "Araby" from "Dubliners" by Island physician Gerry Yukevich. Performed in front of the curtain with no props or staging, his monologue brought to life the psychological journey of a young boy, through his moment in time. His fears and loves were magically brought to life in a performance that begs to be seen again.

Buck Reidy sang a rousing rendition of "Mr. Dooley," accompanied by pianist Linda Berg and a chorus of pubsters including Jill Gault, Paul Brissette, Jim Fulton, Peter MacLean, Amanda Brown, Walter Collins, and George Ricci.

Another piece from Dubliners, "A Little Cloud," was presented by the most Irish Donal O'Sullivan and Chal Stephens, both of whom came from Boston for the event. Weaving in and out of the present, we were transported to an Irish pub for a not so typical view of a meeting of two old friends and a story of a life in pursuit of a dream.

Actress Natalie Rose put the cap on the evening with her moving dramatization of "Molly" from "Ulysses." Her commanding stage presence had me hanging on every word. Her piece was a lengthy soliloquy on the loves and life of Molly Bloom, containing perhaps the longest sentences in written English. She brought Molly to life in a way the book could never do. She won hearty applause from an appreciative crowd.

In years past the show has traveled to Boston for a second showing. The unfriendly economics of small theater today has made that impossible this year according to Mr. Creland. It is Boston's loss.

After a rousing curtain call, long time Bloomsday participant Donal O'Sullivan presented a plague to John Creland to thank him for his work and dedication over the last 28 years. We can only hope for many more Bloomsdays to come.