Marianna de Fazio as Patty, and Kelsey Yuhara as her best friend Jen.
The Strange Misadventures of Patty, Patty’s Dad, Patty’s Friend Jen and a Bunch of Other People. now playing at Annex Theatre, tackles big themes about family and reality, but too many gimmicky moments distract from the story.
Patty (Marianna de Fazio) is living a stable, predictable life as a well-dressed, organized economist with a good job, her first house and an impending promotion at work. She lives with her best friend Jen (Kelsey Yuhara), a cancer researcher with superpowers, who ziplines through the audience onto the stage more than once throughout the show. When Patty gets a call with the news that her estranged father (Jon Lee) has had a serious stroke, she has to face her memories of a less than ideal childhood and becomes a brisk, categorical and detached caretaker to her father.
Things don’t stay emotionless for long. Although Patty’s Dad can barely speak, the father-daughter duo adapts to one another’s company and Patty finds her perfect world tearing at the seams.
The set (Jennifer Zeyl) takes advantage of the small stage, which is divided into three different settings: Patty’s cheerfully pink-toned house, her father’s decrepit apartment and her local coffee shop. Smart staging and lighting bring reality into question. Patty occasionally steps out of the three settings to think aloud while everything else darkens behind her. Several split scenes allow her to transition from one setting to the next, unaware of the strangeness of her own ability to break time and space.
De Fazio makes a convincing Type-A woman with residual daddy issues, but there are times when her merry voice and actions (breaking into dance with her best friend, for example) are forced, overzealous and stereotypical. Lee steals the show as the invalid father suffering from Aphasia. His limited, jumbled verbal output and silent body language reveal a man not only trying to recover from a stroke but trying to heal a broken relationship with his daughter. His heavy breathing, struggle for every movement and exertion in searching for even the simplest words is so believable that it was shocking to see him run spryly across the stage for the curtain call.
Throughout the play, Patty continually digresses into economic theory and the Rational Self-Interest Model. Without prior knowledge on these subjects, much of their humor and metaphor is lost. The subplot of Jen and her superpowers is distracting, reducing her to a device for moving the plot along and revealing back story.
The last five minutes of the play are rushed amid the heroine’s surprising moment of self-discovery. Perhaps writer Allison Moore was in a hurry to wrap things up, undercutting a reconciliation between Patty and her father. In a play about the shifting nature of reality, however, the idea of believability is up for grabs. Although the father-daughter relationship is hardly a new story, strong performances by de Fazio and Lee create enough empathy that, believable or not, their mended relationship comes as a heartfelt relief.
The Strange Misadventures of Patty, Patty’s Dad, Patty’s Friend Jen and a Bunch of Other People, directed by Amy Poisson, runs at Annex Theatre through Aug. 27. Tickets here.
Image Courtesy of Annex Theatre.