Review: Patti & The Kid. Created by Frank Boyd and Libby King. Written and performed by Frank Boyd, Libby King and Maya Flory-Barnes Salas. Dramaturg: Sally Ollove. Collaborator/Consulting Director: Jenny Koons. Lighting Design: Amiya Brown. Sound Design: Nila K. Leigh. Runs April 12 through April 15, 2018 at On The Boards.
Proudly and boldly comparing their work to Beckett’s “Waiting for Godot” and the work of seminal film comedian Buster Keaton, Frank Boyd and Libby King’s new performance piece PATTI & THE KID debuting at On The Boards this weekend is theater for the patient. It opens simply; two rolled up carpet bundles onstage which contain the two actors who emerge with a clutter of junk and immediately set up their individual little island-camps and go about the business of surviving in…well, who knows where? The p.r. for Patti & The Kid is calling it a post-apocalyptic western. Perhaps. It’s more accurately a landscape of American Gothic Existentialism in the Brave New World of Trumpism.
Which is just a fahncy way of saying “it’s a post-apocalyptic western”.
In addition to the two carpet islands of household crap and camping gear, there is a sad little absurdist Beckettian tree at the back of the stage which gets visited by…the dude? Both characters are dressed in quasi western garb; the female self-identifies as “Patti” as in iconic rock star/artist Patti Smith, who was certainly a renegade. Is the male character “The Kid”? As in noted criminal of the Wild West, “Billy the Kid”? He seems too benign to be that hardened of a villain. The male character is, as we learn later in the piece, is a former (?) junkie mess who got involved in Civil War reenactments.
Plus, halfway through Patti & The Kid, an actual real “kid” appears…it’s 10 year old Maya Flory-Barnes Salas an astonishingly self-assured child performer who grounds the play in some sense of surreal normality. After 30 minutes or so of the two adult characters silently setting up their island-camps, which include the rituals of making coffee and playing war games with Nerf guns, “The Kid” emerges to speak the first actual lines of dialogue heard in the evening as her cheery questions force the reluctant adults to start engaging with her. The Kid also brings the audience into the mix by telling a joke then asking audience members to contribute their mostly awful jokes (which raises anxiety levels as you’re never sure what the hell someone in an audience is going to say or do…)
The Kid then leaves and each of the adult characters offers up individual monologues which fill in their story a bit. The male character tells his Civil War reenactment story and recites a long Warholian list of Campbell Soup products while “Patti” tells us about her life pre-post apocalypse. This section, for me, was the most engaging part of Patti & The Kid. Both Mr. Boyd and Ms King are good actors and excellent storytellers and their stories were oddly intriguing and rather poignant. When they wrap up this section of the evening, it’s a bit disappointing. You’re left wanting more of their tales.
The two characters eventually return to the carpet cocoon status where we first met them and The Kid returns to have her solo moment on stage which includes more audience engagement.
It’s a languid show, and very segmented thus my “you need patience to get enjoyment out of Patti & The Kid” warning. The first mute “actors nattering around onstage” section is…ok and the arrival of “The Kid” adds a frisson of energy to the proceedings. The two monologues are by far the most interesting parts of the evening which runs about 100 minutes or so.
Patti & The Kid is, in many ways, the typical “new work” kind of experimental theater piece you frequently see at On The Boards. It meanders in a familiar and benign way while it allows performers to explore things at a pace they get to set. There’s a tendency to reference other works while commenting on the state of the world. Sometimes these kinds of shows dazzle and sometimes they bomb in a spectacular fashion but mostly they amuse with flashes of brilliance here and there to propel them along. In the case of Patti & The Kid, it’s those monologues and Mr. Boyd and Ms King’s skills at performing them and the charismatic charm of Maya Flory-Barnes Salas that gets the job done.