Barnard’s Glicker-Milstein Theater hosted a reading of the Core-Curriculum-friendly play Dido of Idaho last night, and Bwog sent first-year Sarah Kinney to tell you about it.
Last night, the New York Stage & Film (NYSAF) Company performed a reading of Dido of Idaho at Barnard’s Glicker-Milstein Blackbox Theater. Dido of Idaho, written by Abby Rosebrock, is a five-character play about a millennial alcoholic and her affair with a married English professor. NYSAF is a non-profit arts organization committed to supporting artists of all ages and backgrounds, and Dido of Idaho was an enthralling, casual, and hilarious way to kick off their fall season in the city.
Although Dido of Idaho is intended to be a full-length play, last night’s performance was simply a minimalist reading. Even though the performance consisted of only five chairs and five scripts, the lack of costumes and props in no way detracted from the presentation of the work. With no physical context, the actors were left able to interpret gestures as subtly or boldly as they pleased, showcasing their individual perspectives. This style of performance also allowed the audience to fill in the gaps with their own imaginations, enabling the play to assume many personal interpretations.
The plot of the play is uproarious and insightful. Nora, an alcoholic music professor played by Layla Khoshnoudi, is sleeping with Michael, her married colleague played by Curran Connor. Upon arriving home one evening, Crystal (played by Abby Rosebrock herself), Michael’s wife and former runner-up for Miss Idaho, finds Nora passed out drunk on her couch. However, after Nora drunkenly fabricates a story about how she has an abusive boyfriend and Michael invited her over to escape, Crystal commits herself to protect Nora and be her best friend. Unfortunately, this doesn’t last long; the truth unwinds by the end of the night with every glass of rum that Crystal and Nora share. Crystal ends up nearly beating Nora to death out of jealously and rage, blinding Nora in her right eye and sending her straight to the hospital. In the hospital, Nora has vivid dreams of her late mother Julie (played by Tasha Lawrence) where they fight, reconcile, and bond over the unsaid tragedies of Nora’s adult life. In what appears to be a comedic twist, in these dreams Julie is in a relationship with Ethel (played by Lynette Freeman), Crystal’s mother who dies of cancer by the end of the play. When Nora wakes up, she is greeted by Crystal, who has left Michael and come to offer peace to Nora. It seems as if all just might end well; however, at the very end of the last scene, Nora sits straight up in her hospital bed and screams into the abyss: “I am pissed!” Cut to black. End of play.
Although the plot itself is extremely entertaining, it is the metaphorical subplot allusions that really bring the performance to the next level. The opera Dido and Aeneas is referred to all throughout the play–especially the song “Dido’s Lament,” a poignant ballad sung by Dido as she kills herself over grief of Aeneas’s departure. Another work featured in the play is Aveda, the story of a strong, independent women who is bold and unregretful in her sexual endeavors. Aveda and Dido both mirror the characters Crystal and Nora in different ways. Crystal mimics Aveda in that she, at the beginning of the play, expresses her fierce confidence and autonomy and eventually makes the decision to leave her lover. Nora mimics Dido in that she also has a passionate affair with a man who can never be hers alone. This layer of dramatic allusion brings Dido of Idaho to a level that surpasses a typical piece of theatre.
This casual Monday night theatrical reading had a tremendous impact on its audience. The modern humor left the audience roaring and even some of the seated actors chuckling to themselves on stage. From dramatic irony to drunken outbursts to raunchy sex jokes, the actors’ delivery was sharp enough to elicit laughter from the whole theater throughout nearly every scene. However, comedy wasn’t the only focus of Dido of Idaho. The all-too-real dynamics between husband, wife, lover, mother, and daughter made the performance heart wrenching and relatable. Dido of Idaho was thought-provoking, exhilarating, and absolutely hilarious. I walked away contemplating the consequences of human habits: everything from alcohol abuse to messy, messy love.