Lydia's Funeral Video
nytheatre.com review by Michael Mraz
August 11, 2008
Lydia is your average apocalypse-obsessed 28 year-old girl living in San Francisco. Her estranged mother is a narcissistic newscaster. Her best friend is a cutting-edge doctor specializing in clean abortions. And she's having an affair with a man who's engaged to be married to someone else. All of this while balancing her job as a WaMu teller (her name has a connection to monetary units; she feels destined to work with them.) Her life is going according to plan, until a fetus appears to her in a dream, claiming to be hers, foretelling her death, and ordering her to get an abortion and make a video to be played at her funeral in the next 28 days...or else. Crazy, right? Until she wakes up pregnant with her betrothed lover's child. Thus, Lydia sets out to make her funeral video and debates the feelings connected to the idea of aborting her possible future child.
Lydia's Funeral Video, a one-woman show written and performed by Samantha Chanse, is set in a not-so-distant future where abortions are only legal 28 days after conception (thus her dream fetus's time limit) and are carried out in armored vehicles, under increasing threats by an extremist anti-abortion movement (this complicates Lydia's decision even more).
Lydia's best friend, Bernie, is the doctor who heroically heads up the pro-abortion movement. Despite her disbelief in Lydia's crazy dream, she agrees to perform the abortion, as long as it's done legally, and to help with Lydia's funeral video, even though there is no evidence of Lydia's impending death.
The fetus returns to Lydia issuing more requirements—ordering her to interview the father, Gin, who offers to leave his fiancée for her; forcing her to face her mother; and demanding she do three stand-up routines at an open-mic night she often frequents. As the days count down to Lydia's supposed end, she faces these challenges, taking her through a journey that finally makes her confront questions she's been afraid to even ask about her life. While Bernie claims she's "fucking over her life for some stupid dream," it seems the dream is finally making her live it. And as her favorite phrase—"maybe the apocalypse will come tomorrow"—becomes more true in the world around her, she begins to wake up to how much she's been ignoring it.
All of the characters are skillfully performed by Samantha Chanse, who creates seven distinct, living people and commits to their quirks fully throughout the entirety of the near two-hour show. Though I wish there would have been some more peaks and troughs in some of the characters' emotional journeys (most specifically with Lydia, especially in the already hilarious conversations with the fetus), Chanse has some brilliant moments with Lydia at a key turning point late in the show, as well as throughout her stand-up routines. Because of the slight lack of variation early-on, the first portion of the show rides entirely on Chanse's quick wit and delivery, but a strong finish drives the heart of the show home.
Chanse's writing also flows nicely, with light, easy dialogue and the monologues remain engaging throughout (quite a feat for 115 minutes sans intermission). However, a co-worker character that Chanse brings to the script never seems to take off much, seemingly just there to push work-related plot points along.
Overall, Lydia's Funeral Video manages to pose important questions on both sides of the abortion issue without seeming preachy and asks the audience to truly re-evaluate their relationships. Because, if the apocalypse is really going to come tomorrow, wasting today dwelling on the past and waiting for a better future seems a bit silly.