Woman of Leisure and Panic
nytheatre.com review by Sarah Lang
August 11, 2013
You could talk all day about the pressures that come with being a modern woman and not say it half as well as Charlotte Bydwell shows and tells it in forty-five minutes.
Bydwell’s dance-based performance piece follows Charlotte Bydwell (the character) through several days in her hectic existence. She humorously depicts the pressures that come at young women from every side—pressure to be in great shape, to be creatively fulfilled and also financially stable, to be a good daughter, to maintain successful relationships, to achieve (as her meditation audio guide urges gently) balance in all aspects of our lives. And it’s clear that she isn’t complaining. She isn’t railing against the injustices of being pressured toward perfect (though she’d be justified!). She is simply showing—clearly, lovingly, and with just a hint of panic, the experience so familiar to those in the audience.
The piece opens with Bydwell seated upstage in a pool of light, full princess skirt spread around her, the picture of elegance. The illusion of serenity is quickly dismantled as Bydwell is beset from all sides with phone calls from her mother, messages from “Tom, that cute boy you met on the subway,” and a call from her new boss telling her she got the restaurant job she applied for (yay!) and wants her to start right away! The full skirt, a wonderful piece of character and storytelling from Costume Designer Erica Evans, goes from elegance to disarray and back to an attempt at elegance, and at one point even becomes the bed in which Bydwell just can’t fall sleep, as her inner voice counts down the hours over the sound system.
A deafening alarm signals that it’s time to exercise—a mandate she can’t seem to ignore no matter where she is when it rings. Exercise is only one activity that Bydwell conscientiously marks time for on her comically large calendar. She’s also scheduled time to Create…time that gets reappropriated throughout the performance as other obligations and opportunities come knocking.
Even circumstances that are clearly exaggerated for comic effect or timing’s sake are instantly recognizable as real, and full of emotional truth. Bydwell nailed it, and it was incredibly gratifying (and a little eye-opening, maybe even motivating) to see my own experience and the experience of so many women I know laid bare so wonderfuly. My ONLY complaint about this performance is that it was over too quickly! I would absolutely recommend Woman of Leisure and Panic.