by Macey Levin
New Yorkers Lauren Letellier and her husband were down-sized at their respective jobs in 2014. As her husband was insistent about leaving Manhattan, they found themselves in Hillsdale, New York where they overnight became “cidiots,” what the locals call anyone from the city or other metropolitan centers who move to northeastern upstate areas. Her one-woman play The Village Cidiot, which she also performs, details her adventures in adapting to a brand new life. This uproarious and poignant play is the first of four in Bridge Street Theatre’s SoloFest that runs weekends through March.
What typifies her initial exposure to rural New York is her line, “I have nowhere to go and I have to drive to get there.” She wonders how a supermarket can close at 6:00 and that there is no Chinese or Mexican or sushi or take-out. Initially, she describes her frustrations with a series of uproarious one-liners. This carries the monologue through the first hour of this seventy-five minute play. As she grows accustomed to the pace and nature of the community her involvement in the town increases. As a member of a group that restores the local cemetery she discovers a long lost graveyard that stems back to the Pre- Revolutionary War. Her research in various local offices and institutions eventually lead her to a different path.
She becomes more somber as she explains how the dairy industry has been forced out of Hillsdale yet the farmers still have to pay taxes for their vast acreage. They end up selling their property to contractors who build expensive houses that the locals cannot afford and then have to move away from the only home they’ve ever known. She tells us of her husband’s life-threatening cardiac experience and the passing of her youngest brother. Though these passages are dark she still drops in humorous observations.
In her sweat shirt and jeans Ms. Letellier is quirky in an endearing manner. Her delivery of comic lines is both sharp and subtle as she evaluates her new life and home. She moves from one place on the stage to another making contact with the whole audience. In fact, on her entrance she directly involves several people. Her winning smile and laid-back manner make her easy to listen to and to appreciate the conflicts she faces as well as the solutions she reaches. It is a textured performance that draws us into her life.
Letellier works in a clever set made up of several huge cartons, almost as tall as she is, that with the use of simple signs identify various locations such as Hillsdale Records Library, Roeliff-Jansen Library. She pulls props out of the boxes as well as her numerous pockets. On a large screen toward the back of the set a multitude of photographs are projected allowing us to know the people and places she refers to. Though this is Ms. Letellier’s play it has been placed in the sure hands of director Martha Wollner who also guided Letellier through its development. The pace of the performance and the staging is brisk with minimal dead time though there are moments when the play could have effectively concluded earlier.
Though the play’s run is over, considering that Ms. Letellier is a resident in this part of the world she should find another venue in which to perform this entrancing piece of theatre.
The Village Cidiot by Lauren Letellier ran from March 10-12, 2023 on the “Priscilla” Mainstage at Bridge Street Theatre, 44 West Bridge Street in Catskill, NY. Director: Martha Wollner; Cast: Lauren Letellier; Production Stage Manager: Kiaro Vedovino; Running time: 75 minutes no intermission
Bridge Street Theatre’s SoloFest continues:
March 17 – 19
MOTHER (and me)
Written and performed by Melinda Buckley
Originally Directed by Kimberly Senior
The story of a larger than life Hungarian Mama Rose who’s slowly waltzing into dementia, as her Broadway baby, Melinda shimmies into middle age. An outrageous one woman show about stepping up and into your own light.
JUST ANNOUNCED. There will be a talkback after the Sunday performance with Katie Keary, the Program Manager for the Alzheimer’s Association Northeastern New York Chapter. Stay after the show to discuss the vital issues raised by Melinda’s show.
March 24 – 26
SPINNING MY WHEELS
Written and performed by Michael Garfield Levine
Directed by Caitlin Langstaff
This roller coaster of a ride takes us from the streets and theaters of New York to the hills of Vermont, into the depths of Michael’s psyche as he battles mental illness and addiction, and back up to sanity whilst encountering a host of unsavory and masterful characters.
March 31 – April 2
ALONE: STORIES FROM EDGAR ALLAN POE
Created and performed by Daniel Hall Kuhn
The horror, the horror! Poems and tales from America’s master of the macabre come thrillingly to life in this one-man show created and performed by an actor BST audiences will recognize from LEWISTON and SHELLEY’S SHADOW.
Fridays &Saturdays at 7:30 P.M.
Sundays at 2:00 P.M.
Tickets at BridgeStreetTheatre.org