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Patty Cake

Remember how the Jetsons used to consume one small pill into which a seven-course meal had been condensed? This production is somewhat like that. In just under an hour, author Ken Prestininzi fictionalizes the Patty Hearst story in order to wrestle with celebrity, family dynamics, capitalism, oppression, unrealized dreams, and the dissolve between reality and the media representation of same. Role-playing and sleeve puppetry enrich the experience.

The majority of the action takes place between the eponymous Ms. Cake (Laura Caputo) and the rather professorial Baker Man (David H. Bickford), who functions primarily as her lawyer but fills many, many shoes before the evening is through. After about 40 minutes of back and forth with these two, Renee Mignosa takes the stage as the actor who will portray Patty in the film version of her life and, zoom, we're off on a new tangent just in time to bring the curtain down on this ambitious little project. Whew.

Bickford has an understated sense of humor to warm his otherwise authoritative character and is a pleasure to watch, even in a ratty blonde wig and pearls (that would be Mommy Cake). It proves an inadequate counterbalance to Caputo, however, who takes full advantage and explores every behavioral tic she can so that we understand that she's not well. Or that she's well, and we as a culture are not. Anyway, wide eyes and a permanently startled look figure heavily into the characterization. Mignosa conveys a vacuous loveliness, as her character tells Patty how the world will come to see her image when they think of Patty, a bit of identity vampirism that both parties find unsettling. Reality of course proved far stranger for Hearst, but I digress.

Except for abandoning Caputo to her demons, L. Flint Esquerra acquits himself well as director and does quite nicely (with Prestininzi) with the design of the clinically spare set. The lights, by Maggie Fullilove-Nugent, are stylishly effective. Prestininzi's insights as a writer, while not particularly fresh, at least provide a rejoining of that classic duo: revolution and stale cake.

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