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Review - The Patsy & Jonas

Review - The Patsy & Jonas

When Barry Connors' frothy family comedy, The Patsy, enjoyed its seven-month at the Booth during Broadway's 1925-26 season, it was a three-act play utilizing one living room set and seven actors. Transport Group's new production, directed by Jack Cummings III, reduces the piece to an intermissionless 75 minutes, minimizes the set to a sparsely furnished room and casts each role with five time OBIE Award winning actor/playwright David Greenspan.

The play is most certainly not the thing in this case. In fact, set and costume designer Dane Laffrey has the actor nearly looking like a caged animal in a zoo, spiritedly performing for passers-by. The playing space is a cube-shaped room, elevated several feet from the floor, with no doors. Greenspan enters from offstage, dressed in a neutral slacks and sweater combo, and hops up onto the parquet floor of the middle-class Harrington family's home. The floral wallpapered room contains six chairs and a desk holding two lamps and a phone.

As himself, the actor recites to us the information most likely found on the published edition's title page, including the names of the characters, and then speaks the stage directions which describe the room in more elaborate detail. After sound designer Michael Rasbury's doorbell ring, which sounds like it was taken from a scratchy period phonograph record, the play proper begins and Greenspan acts out the Cinderella story of how young Patricia Harrington shows her prettier, more popular older sister Grace and her materialistic mother that she, too, can win the heart of a worthy gentleman.

Owing to the quaint humor of the play and the charismatic energy of the actor, it's all rather amusing at first. Greenspan is especially funny as the family patriarch, a bit of a windbag trying to establish himself as the authority figure of the household. But in portraying the mother's melodramatics in the acting style of the day, he frequently spills into campy female impersonation. The two sisters tend to blend into each other and, when tempers start flaring, volumes rise and the dialogue quickly bounces from person to person it becomes increasingly difficult to tell who is speaking. Despite an admirable effort by Greenspan, the novelty of the evening wears thin by the midway point.

An exceptionally well-played scene, however, involves the courtship of Patricia and her beau, which is played with lovely gentleness. Greenspan even manages to show us the lovers kissing without looking ridiculous.

Following most performances of The Patsy, after a half-hour intermission, Greenspan performs his 40-minute monologue, Jonas. Also directed by Cummings, in Jonas the playwright takes on a quieter demeanor, seated the whole time, as he discusses the back story he created for playing Jo, the manservant, in last season's revival of The Royal Family. It's a bit of a stream-of-conscious meditation as he considers the relationship between actor, character and playwright. While intriguing at first, and ripe with poetic language and rhythm, the meandering content also overstays its welcome.

Photo of David Greenspan by Carol Rosegg.

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"Why are we waiting and what's the delay? / Let's get married today!"

- lyric by Irving Caesar and Otto Harbach from "No, No, Nanette"

The grosses are out for the week ending 7/24/2011 and we've got them all right here in BroadwayWorld.com's grosses section.

Up for the week was: MAMMA MIA! (6.1%), ROCK OF AGES (5.6%), MARY POPPINS (5.3%), RAIN: A TRIBUTE TO THE BEATLES ON BROADWAY (4.8%), CHICAGO (4.7%), SISTER ACT (3.3%), THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA (2.4%), THE ADDAMS FAMILY (2.1%), PRISCILLA QUEEN OF THE DESERT (0.7%), MEMPHIS (0.1%), WICKED (0.1%),

Down for the week was: HAIR (-6.8%), CATCH ME IF YOU CAN (-4.9%), JERUSALEM (-3.2%), MASTER CLASS (-2.4%), JERSEY BOYS (-2.1%), BILLY ELLIOT: THE MUSICAL (-0.7%), BABY IT'S YOU! (-0.3%), ANYTHING GOES (-0.2%), SPIDER-MAN TURN OFF THE DARK (-0.2%), HOW TO SUCCEED IN BUSINESS WITHOUT REALLY TRYING (-0.1%),


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From This Author Ben Peltz