Anyway, last night was a special night. I got reacquainted with a nearly forgotten chapter of my adolescence, Mr. Baker's high school English class entitled "Joyce and Frickin' Ulysses." Ulysses is a byword for excessive, famous, tricksy modernism, but I loved the class. It's a book to tangle with, a book to stand up to, and burrow into, a very long journey, and it's best to take your friends. Ah, Bess (to my left), and Nick (to my right), you were brave bright bastards. Cheers!
Forgive the nostalgia. It was prompted by last night's show "Dead City." It's Ulysses, essentially, gender reversed, shoved forward in time, and shortened considerably. I liked it. I enjoyed bright-eyed, bourgeois Samantha Blossom, and her epic journey through New York, through libraries and cafes and insufficiently shocking nightclubs. (Seriously, loud music and sexualized writhing wouldn't faze MY mother, let alone a 38 year-old New York babe.) The production needs some tightening, but the writing was funny, and the structure of the whole thing was satisfying. It took me longer to warm up to Jewel, the Stephen Dedalus counterpart. Stephen is an inherently vexing character, but Jewel was so gormless, irritating in an even more irritating way. Scuttle scuttle indeed!
Postmodernism looking at modernism is going to make the latter look silly. It's also going to make itself look irrelevant. "Dead City" has a bit of that problem, but it doesn't drop the ball in terms of entertainment. Which could be another problem. The real punch of Ulysses is that it gives you all the affirmation and structure of the classic story it's based on (the Odyssey) but only if you FIGHT for it. Joyce isn't going to hand you the happy ending, and the moral, because he knows you wouldn't value it if he did. Instead, he mucks up the telling of the story so that you can barely draw it out of incomprehensibility.
Just by putting the story on stage, "Dead City" makes it swift, and smooth, and easy. Unlike its source material, it's entertainment.