Charlotte Bydwell in A Woman of Leisure and Panic. Photo by Matt Sundin.
In her dance play, A Woman of Leisure and Panic, creator and performer Charlotte
Bydwell twists the plucky heroine archetype — roots stretching from Becky
Sharp to Mary Tyler Moore — into witty commentary about balancing personal and
creative needs in the digital age. Bydwell, russet hair twisted haphazardly into
a bun, beguiles with a performance sensitive to the clash between responsibility
and artistic productivity.
The piece opens with Bydwell, clad in a blush-colored
maxi-skirt, slumped against a bulletin board scrawled with a single calendar month. A
slab of paper folded to resemble a laptop and a cardboard cellphone rest on a nearby
desk. As the opening music from Gone With
the Wind chirps, she peers wide-eyed into the future yawning before her.
Bydwell soon abandons contemplation for
frenzied activity: She performs energetic calisthenics to shave off self-perceived
pudge, she gratefully accepts a hostessing gig to make good on overdue bills,
and she struts to the classic making-it-in-New-York
song as she envisions potential success. Commitments pile up for this artless
go-getter, and her calendar is increasingly overrun with scribbled obligations.
Overwhelmed, she chucks her responsibilities to lounge on the beach.
Bydwell blends an amusing mix of movement,
voiceovers, and everyday sounds (fire alarms when she exercises and pings to
indicate the arrival of a text message) to envision a bustling environment inhabited by a
sunny alter ego who can’t quite seem to navigate the one, two sucker punches
life throws. Her stream-of-conscious
narration elicits guffaws from the audience as she unsuccessfully plans diets and
ruminates on the possibility of a life-changing phone call. She’s the millennial Bridget Jones.
While Bydwell boasts an impressive pedigree
with training from Julliard and stints with Monica Bill Barnes and Larry Keigwin, she shuns virtuosity for straightforward actions that skillfully punctuate
her monologue. When caught on an express train making local stops,
she clicks her toes and heels together in a circuitous path, face knotted in
annoyed acceptance. It’s subtle and perfectly relatable.
The strength of A Woman of Leisure and Panic rests in Bydwell’s sweetly comic touch.
With a cheery shrug of the shoulders, she reminds us that life’s tribulations are
best approached with droll absurdity.
This review refers to the performance seen on Sunday, August 11th at 3:30pm as part of the New York Fringe Festival.