Wednesday, October 07, 2015

Theater Review - The Patsy

The Patsy
Adapted by Greg Leaming from "Le Dindon" by Georges Feydeau
Directed by Steve Tague
Where: Thompson Theater at the Roselle Center for the Arts
(University of Delaware, Newark, DE)
When: Sunday, October 4, 2pm
Photo by The Rep

The University of Delaware's Resident Ensemble Players kicks off its 2015-16 season with the amusing farce The Patsy, an absurd comedy that layers on nonsensical romantic situations coupled with physical humor and some over-the-top performances.  Slamming doors, mistaken identities, and slapstick fighting also make more than one appearance, but as long as you give in to the nature of the very definition of a farce, you'll enjoy yourself for sure.

Although the play throws much more at the audience than this, the general gist of the plot is that wives Lucienne Vatelin (guest artist Victoria Adams-Zischke) and Clotilde Pontagnac (REP member Deena Burke) pledge that should their respective husbands Maurice and Eugene (the REP's Lee Ernst and Stephen Pelinski) cheat on them, they'll vow to seek revenge by sleeping with a suitor of their choosing who just so happens to be the same person, Ernest Redillon (REP's Michael Gotch).  Yes, it sounds ridiculous and along the way even more plot twists and characters are thrown in including (but certainly not limited to) a crazed German lover, her macho boxer husband, a prostitute, and many more frivolities.

While nearly all of these eccentric side characters are silly enough to warrant their existence, the problem with the play overall is its too-long length.  Clocking in at nearly two hours and forty-five minutes, The Patsy overstays its welcome for something as light and silly as it is.  The first act and its plot set-up is certainly necessary, but it drags a bit.  The second and third acts undoubtedly kick up the humor quotient (and the pace absolutely quickens as the jokes come at a much faster pace), but they can't help but feel slight and inconsequential.  While triviality is oftentimes a characteristic of a farce, the three act structure of this piece unfortunately stretches things out by about thirty minutes too long.

Granted, that isn't to say that The Patsy isn't successful.  It is.  There are some great performances to be seen here particularly those of the more secondary characters including the aforementioned Michael Gotch as a weirdly timid yet brazen ladies' man who received laughs upon his very first entrance, REP member Kathleen Pirkl Tague as a high-voiced hooker, and guest actor Torrey Hansen and REP member Elizabeth Heflin as an American couple whose love is tested in a French hotel room.  It's also nice to see one of the lead roles go to a guest artist as it's always nice to see some fresh faces mixed in amongst the REP members.  (Which was why it was always fantastic when the university actually had a Masters program in theater and students were taking part in the's just shockingly disappointing that artistic director Sandy Robbins and the University of Delaware have let that fall by the wayside just as the REP was coming into its own a few years ago...but that's another rant for another day...)

The set design and costumes, while not as elaborately sumptuous as past plays, both work as does the play itself for the most part.  While there are some reasons to be critical of this adaptation, it generally works most of the time.  A few edits here and there and I'd have been a happier theatergoer, but a fun time is still to be had at The Patsy.

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