A series of random, seemingly unconnected words are furiously scribbled on Post-It Notes and immediately discarded — dropped on the floor, left as clues (breadcrumbs?) that may lead us to understand more about the workings of the human mind of Alida (Stephanie Dunnam), a reclusive writer befriended by Beth *Catherine D. DuBord), a flighty millennial who offers to be Boswell to Alida’s Johnson. Alida, it turns out, is slowly losing her short-term memory, which makes it difficult to write what will clearly be her final book, one she’s not even sure she will ever publish: a fractured fairytale culled from the deep recesses of her own childhood with her well-meaning but troubled mother and the experience that made Alida feel like Cinderella, like Gretl, like Little Red Red Riding Hood, but without the happy ending.
Alida goes in and out of the past and present, piecing together a mosaic of memories into a current story by which she can understand how she got to this point in life. But her dementia make it nearly impossible to deal with her. She doesn’t trust Beth (should she?) and wonders whether she’s being exploited. The audience wonders, too.
Breadcrumbs, now at the Bath House, is and investigation into the human psyche, and as we’ve come to expect from WingSpan (the 19-year-old theater company that tackles plays by, about and for women), it does so with a scrappy defiance. Jennifer Haley’s play isn’t exactly commercial candy, but a serious portrait of ageing and self-examination. What it lacks in box office appeal, though, it more than makes up for with Dunnam’s defiant curmudgeonliness, softened in poignant moments by her obvious frailty and vulnerability. Ultimately, though, it’s a hopeful and satisfying 70 minutes of theater, reminding us that we are the sum of our experiences, and deserving of a shared humanity.
— Arnold Wayne Jones
Bath House Cultural Center, 521 E. Lawther Drive.
Through Oct 29.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition October 14, 2016.