BWW Review: World Premiere of PATIENCE Explores Competition and Commitment at The Paradise Factory
In the card game of traditional solitaire, the stakes are small and the process favors deliberation. Not so in the sport of competitive solitaire (patience), where hesitation hinders and speed wins.
In Patience, a world premiere by Johnny G. Llloyd at the Corkscrew Theater Festival, Daniel (Joshua Gitta) is a former prodigy who is now the world's #1 professional solitaire player. He's also going through a millennial "mid-life" crisis. Young, black, talented, and restless, he inhabits a solo space in a game/sport that values reactions not reflections, shuffling between self-doubt and confidence with a gravitational pull on the people orbiting his success. With his happiness, posterity and legacy all at stake, he navigates his day-to-day existence and choices in light of his long-term trajectory. Playwright Johnny G. Lloyd deals us a winning hand: a compelling ensemble of relatable characters within a wryly written house-of-cards story that doesn't collapse under its own thematic weight.
Each character in the all-black cast of Patience evokes varying degrees of self-awareness. For a champion like Daniel, it's not a matter of whether he's on top of his game or not (he is); but whether staying on top is worth it. Even the expert is perplexed:
"Solitaire is kind of a solo thing, isn't it? Like watching a sport you don't understand and it's just one person doing a thing and you don't get how the person does the thing or how you can tell when they've won. Like curling without the context of the other team. It's both a lot and very little to take in."
At home, his busybody boyfriend/husband-to-be Jordan (Christopher Rand), epitomizes the well-meaning and insecure significant other who seems to be navigating a labyrinth of communication three steps ahead of his fiancé. Agreeing on wall paint colors and choosing which books to keep/toss seem like quaint quibbles on the surface, but the ripple effect on their "Will you love me forever?" relationship is evident.
In the card-training classroom or refereeing a competition, their friend and former solitaire pro Nikita (Deanna Supplee) adds some calm coolness, a voice of reason:
"As a reminder, your decks are in the same order. We are measuring not by moves but by time. Fastest time wins. Each mistake adds ten seconds to your time, but I know both of you rarely make mistakes." And if that's not enough pressure, there's Mother. Daniel's "momager" (Brenda Crawley) informs her son that she has taken a new protégé under her wing, the laser-focused Ella (Kristin Dodson). Polite yet predatory, Ella's lethal combination of talent and tenacity reminds us that true card sharks are in perpetual motion.
Although the 85-minute play includes enough interesting trivia about the dynamics of solitaire to gain our interest (only 79% of solitaire games are solvable), it is the clever way Llloyd leverages solitaire as a narrative catalyst that connects us to Daniel, his contemplative world, and what it means to be a champion with doubts. Hint: watch your back; Ella is right behind you.
Photos: Aaron Weiss