by Margret Echeverria

I sit here in a coffee shop in the early morning of Bloomsday, 2022, having just left my lover’s bed, having survived nearly eleven years on from the death of my son and the subsequent death of my marriage and, today, contemplating “Yes! Reflections of Molly Bloom“, which I witnessed at the Irish Repertory Theatre just last night.

Today is the anniversary of the day in 1904, when James Joyce met his wife to be, Nora Barnacle (What an unfortunate maiden name!).  It is the same date ascribed to the story of Leopold and Molly Bloom in Ulysses written by Joyce exactly one hundred years ago.  I woke this morning, reflecting to my lover that the immediate cruelest thing about losing an infant was remembered for me just a few hours ago when Molly Bloom (Aedín Moloney) spoke of her breast milk.  It kept coming and there was no baby’s life to nourish with it.  My own breasts became heavy and moldable like clay after my tragic loss and Molly, too, remembered eleven years on from her tragedy.  “Was it painful?”  My sweet lover asked.  “Yes!”  I said, thinking of Molly with no ibuprofen.  Moloney’s Molly and I could definitely huddle in the same Irish ladies’ speakeasy drinking and talking all night.

Molly is waiting for her Leopold to come home in the wee hours of the morning and she is reviewing her regrets over journeys of love and lust in which she may have taken a wrong turn or three.  There are few clues indicating if we are listening to her thoughts or rather she has invited us in for tea and is actually speaking directly to us.  The men she led and followed were expected to give her identity, purpose and, dare she hope for it, joy.  Moloney moves a scarf and sometimes bed covering over her body as she speaks.  This symbolic movement may be  unconscious on the character’s part, but it emphasized for me that each rememberance lands very much the same way.  I get that this is Molly’s limited dull life; she longs for entertainment in new experiences that will intimately connect her to another person.   However, every story she told followed a vocalized cadence and planned expressions of her reflections.

Aedín Moloney is Molly Bloom. Photo by Carol Rosegg

Moloney’s indulgence in Joyce’s language and imagery is a little too relaxed.  Moloney just missed the mark that would have revealed how each discovery built on the last and shaped Molly’s character.  Her frequent cry of “Yes!” felt like, “Okay, that section is beautifully complete.  Let us rush on.”  We chuckle at her emphasis that unsolicited pats on the bottom are frequent in a woman’s life and unwelcome.  We laugh because it is too late to cry after one hundred years of protesting this.  I would have liked more genuinely spontaneous stumbles into Molly’s sense of humor about her plight.  The text was there for it, but those moments were often missed.

What I did appreciate was eventual description of her total surrender to the limited private pleasure allowed for her despite her awereness of the social bondage of her sex.   Here Molly is the most alive.  Moloney did hit this mark in her revelaton of the inevitable duplicitous nature of lived commitment to some son of a bitch for life.  We love him, we hate him to the core of our being and then we remember that we love him again.  Yes!  Let us remember. Yes!  In our foolish youth, he once kissed our very heart releasing the magical bliss of our birthright as women to be worshipped as the bringers of life and light on this bleak earth.  Surely, if we surrender to that, the bondage is worth it.

Yes!  Yes!  Immerse yourself in this interpretation of Ulysses.  It leaves you wanting just a little more as any Irish legacy will do.  I recommend it.

YES!  REFLECTIONS OF MOLLY BLOOM by James Joyce adapted for the stage by Aedín Moloney and Colum McCann.  Directed by John Keating.

WITH Aedín Moloney.

Scenic design by Charlie Corcoran, costume design by Leon Dobkowski, lighting design by Michael O’Connor, and sound design by M. Florian Staab. Jeff Davolt is the production stage manager.

Through July 17, 2022.  Irish Reperatory Theatre, 132 West 22nd Street, New York, NY 10011.  Purchase tickets here or call (212) 727-2737.  Runs 90 minutes, no intermission.