I know what you’re thinking: Should you say “yes” to this new solo show now playing at the Irish Repertory Theatre? As its title indicates, this 75-minute monologue brings to full-bodied life one of Irish author’s James Joyce’s most indelible and interesting characters, Marion “Molly” Bloom, the still-besotted, still-lustful and, yes, admittedly adulterous wife of Leopold Bloom (the main character in Joyce’s “Ulysses"), and over a century since her creation, she remains one of the most richly conceived females in literature.
Not just a wife and mother (to 15-year-old Milly), Molly is a woman unafraid to speak her mind, especially and frequently about sex – something she alternatively desires and mocks. And like many women (and men), she’s trying to come to terms with her past, which includes a motherless childhood in Gibraltar, a string of beaus and would-be-suitors whose memories live on (whether they do or not), and one dead son, whose existence we only learn about towards the end of her reveries. And in some ways, she’s also trying to make sense of the biggest decision of her life: to marry Leopold Bloom, a man who has fulfilled almost none of his pre-marital promises.
But Molly’s story is definitely the second-best reason to attend this production. First and foremost is the storyteller: Aedin Moloney (who adapted the piece with Colum McCann) is a performer of extraordinary skill and commitment. Dressed in a diaphanous gown by costumer Leon Dobkowski (and even baring her breasts for one scene), she maneuvers fleetly around Charlie Corcoran’s abstract set, lounging here, kissing a pole there, mimicking urination, pulling scarves from her closet, singing occasionally, and consistently making the evening (directed adroitly by Kira Simring) far less static than one might have feared.
Most importantly, her varied delivery of this aria-like script keeps our attention even as the words often overwhelm us (and even her). Moloney doesn’t shy away from the crude double entendres, she relishes them. She expertly captures the passion of a young woman discovering men for the first time as well as the exasperation of a middle-aged women who wonders if men are worth the trouble. Her Molly can be slightly, deliciously bitchy about other women (including a local group of singers) yet dreamy about men she’s slept with as well as men she hasn’t (notably the poet Stephen Daedalus, another of Joyce’s legendary creations!). And when it comes to her “Poldy,” Moloney’s Molly can sound bitter, forgiving, even girlish. She’s anything but single-minded.
Now, because Molly's story is told in a somewhat frustrating stream-of-consciousness fashion – one that can admittedly be hard for audiences to follow – the right answer to my first question may well be “no” for those who like their tales told linearly or wish to hear actual dialogue. For everyone else, though, say, “Yes! Yes! Yes!”