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Review: BREADCRUMBS at Straz Center

In association with Jobsite’s Job-Side productions

Review: BREADCRUMBS at Straz Center

"Breadcrumbs, they lead the way something familiar."

"You never liked it here... you are just holding on because it's about to be gone."

Jennifer Haley's haunting and sensitively-driven script dive deep into the middle of the human experience as it examines it from one of the hardest perspectives, dealing with a crippling disease. Some diseases render a person defenseless in body and mind, but then there are diseases such as Dementia, a disease that is not only crippling on the mind but just as crippling on the human soul.

What happens when the victim, if that word can even be used, is faced with an extraordinary experience? The ability to trust, feel, and even need, the person is faced with the idea that it could all be gone in a blink of an eye, or for Alida the turn of a page. Jennifer Haley creates an emotionally driven and complex world that is as sobering as it is heartbreaking, and far too familiar with a number of us as audience members. I think that is what makes Jennifer Haley's script so intriguing and yet so relevant, especially in today's climate.

Job-Side Productions in Association with Jobsite Theater and Circle in the Water Productions produced this poignant piece during the dark nights of Jobsite's current production A Clockwork Orange. Now one could wonder how they would produce another piece on a set constructed for an opened production. Let me be the first to say that it was seamlessly done from top to bottom. The show is so beautifully crafted at the hands of Director Alan Mohney Jr., that you forget the other set even exists. Using the backdrop of the already functional set of A Clockwork Orange, the team behind Breadcrumbs covers the wall with a smattering of post-it notes. The only piece of furniture used is a centralized kitchen table and chairs.

The story here is as complex and endearing and so ground in human condition that it feels all too familiar, and makes it impossible to look away. At the top you meet Alida, a prolific writer in the later stages of her life. She begins the story by dropping post-it notes around the floor as she drops little "breadcrumbs" or words that will lead her back to a point of reference. During the story we meet Beth, a nurse's aid at the Doctor's office in which Alida is getting a diagnostic examination. She is asked to repeat a series of words and to recite a story just as it was told to her. What happens next sets up the following events of the story, Alida recites the story but completely different from the story Beth told. Beth soon forms a relationship with the reclusive writer and after quitting her job at the hospital, becomes a part-time researcher for Alida. Beth uses this as leverage to help convince Alida to publish her story, which Alida insists is, "Only for herself." Alida is a staunch no-nonsense protagonist, and is only interested in "longhand," or research done by pen and paper and consequently at a library. She has no time for the electronics of the world and revels in telling Beth these stipulations.

We see the story primarily through Alida's eyes and what is remaining of her memories as she writes her story. Through the use of post-it notes or "breadcrumbs," Alida and Beth establish points of reference hoping to lead to an end of the story, in which Alida makes apparent "there is no end." Beth is a lost soul, sleeping with men to have a place of belonging, and only dating them for months at a time before moving on to the next. It's when she meets Alida that she truly finds a sense of self, of belonging, and most importantly need. What Beth finds in Alida, our writer finds the same in Beth. For so long she has lived alone, and in Beth, she struggles to find the trust and need she not rightfully deserves but craves. Of the two women in our story, both double as other characters. Beth doubles as Alida's Mother, and Alida doubles as her younger/juvenile self, and the story is driven by memories of her childhood.

"If words are not important why are you sending me to the library to look up the entire history of just one?"

"I already knew your story, I just wanted to see how you would tell it."

As Alida, Roxanne Fay is truly astounding and haunting. She turns words into fluid poetry and entices the audience to hang on to every sentence. No stranger to her work on-stage and off I jumped at the immediate chance to experience her gravitas again. Her distinct moment to moment in each breath, each non-verbal, every word breathes new life to her already prominent body of work. Every time Roxanne steps onto the stage and under the lights, you as an audience member are transported to a world so grounded in the human condition and beautifully crafted at the hands of one of the bay area finest performers to ever grace the stage. Her heartbreaking turn and beautifully mastered work here is exemplary and need to be experienced.

As Beth, Debbie Yones is exceptional. Most recently seen in Rasheeda Speaking at Off-Central Players, her work here is just as moving and stirring. You see the misunderstood nature of Beth, and her almost lost soul worldview as she travels through the narrative of her story. The nature of her relationship with Alida is breathtaking to watch and as heartbreaking, poignant, and relevant as ever.

Director Alan Mohney Jr. has established a fine-oiled machine here. At the helm are two of the finest bay area performers making this a top-notch tour de force of Acting Masterclass. Working with an already functional set, and lighting design set up for an already running production can pose potential problems for the producer, but Alan Mohney Jr. handles this with masterful ease. There is not a break in momentum, and 75 minutes seems like mere seconds and wills you to want more. Technically sound and brilliantly executed Breadcrumbs is an endearing and humanly sound story that we didn't realize we needed more than ever.

Do yourself a favor, and make your way to the Shimberg Playhouse at the Straz Center for the Performing Arts March 14-22,2022 at 8 pm. On stage Mondays and Tuesdays during Jobsite's dark nights. Tickets are $25 for adults and $20 for students and seniors. If you miss your chance to see this stunning and moving production, or like I would be absolutely thrilled at the chance to experience this poignant tale again, you will have a chance to catch Breadcrumbs at Studio Grand Central, in St. Petersburg starting March 24- April 3rd. You would be doing yourself an extreme disservice if you were to miss this supreme masterclass in acting by Ms. Yones and Ms. Faye for this is the best of the best, and a "point of reference" to one of the most relevant pieces seen to date, that becomes more sobering and more poignant with each turn of the page.

"No matter where you go, I will always be with you."

"When you know the story you do not need the words,

and when you know the person you do not need the story."


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From This Author - Drew Eberhard