The first weekend of the 15th annual Festival of Independent Theatres, which gives small companies one-hour slots to try out new work at the Bath House Cultural Center, yielded two strong new pieces by Dallas writers: Like Me by gay monologist John Michael Colgin (directed by Donny Covington); and Lydie Marland in the Afterlife by Isabella Russell-Ides (directed by Susan Sargeant).
Colgin takes the audience zigzagging through his autobiography (he's only 24) and offers some provocative musings about how social media are giving people a way to receive peer approval by hitting the "like" button on status updates. The show is unpolished, partially improvised, but compelling, particularly when likable Colgin swerves into stories about his real-life job working with Alzheimer's patients. He also rewinds back "to the golden age of Facebook ... before Farmville." Nice neo-nostalgia.
Cindee Mayfield Dobbs and Catherine DuBord are just grand as the title character in Lydie Marland. Dobbs plays her from age 50 to 87 (and beyond, in the afterlife). DuBord is the younger version. It's a true-life tale of a former Oklahoma governor's wife from the first half of the 20th century. Lydie was adopted at age 10 by the much-older man she'd marry at 28. They lived lavishly, building a Versailles-like palace in Ponca City. But they slept in separate locked rooms. He was probably gay. She had an affair with a Russian artist and bore a child, who was taken away and put up for adoption.
Russell-Ides' bittersweet script cleverly reveals how Lydie ended up homeless and toothless, then dead and talking to the spirit of herself as a glamorous world traveler. The staging by Sargeant is elegant and graceful, as are the performances. When Dobbs, as the aged Lydie, asks, "What happened to all our pretty days?," the words hang in the air like a lovely, haunting waltz.