Downtown’s Urbanite Theatre continues to bring audiences new plays and new voices with its current production, Breadcrumbs, by Jennifer Haley.
As with Urbanite's other productions, and befitting its setting and its mission statement, Breadcrumbs is an intimate (two actors) piece, with minimal set, props and a tight running time, just 75 minutes with no intermission. In that time, though, we’re able to trace a significant arc in the life story of Alida (Barbara Redmond), a writer facing the onset of dementia.
When we first see her, she is striding about her apartment, scribbling words on a pad of yellow stickies in her hand in an effort to retain them and their meanings, and to find her way back “to something familiar.” For a writer to lose her words is obviously catastrophic, and for Alida, who lives alone, there’s no one to help her navigate her way through the dark woods of her future, a Hansel-and-Gretel forest much like one you might find in her “fractured fairy tale” stories.
Unless perhaps, Beth (Brittany Proia) can help. When we first meet her, she is testing Alida’s memory with questions that reveal Alida’s disease; she works part-time for a clinic and seems sympathetic. But if Alida has troubles with memory, Beth, it turns out, may have problems with honesty. How truthful or reliable is she? Can Alida trust her, as Beth offers to help her write a memoir, or is Alida’s paranoia responsible for making us, too, doubt Beth?
Adding another dimension to the story: Proia also plays Alida’s mother in flashbacks that reveal certain similarities between her and Beth, especially when it comes to picking the wrong men in their searches for happiness. There is much talk of dreams, and here good ones don’t come true while bad ones do.
Under the direction of Urbanite co-artistic director Brendan Ragan, Redmond and Proia keep us guessing as well as involved, wondering how their relationship will play out. There are occasional flashes of humor in Haley’s script, but overall the tone is fairly somber. Redmond conveys a strong, tough, ready to be unlikable character as the older Alida, while giving us glimpses of the lonely, “different” child she was in scenes with her troubled mother. And Proia walks the fine line between seeming caring and calculating as she insinuates herself into Alida’s apartment and life. The play’s end provides a touching, emotionally satisfying resolution.
Breadcrumbs continues through Sept. 18 at Urbanite; for tickets call 321-1397 or go to urbanitetheatre.com.