An extremely poignant play called “Let’s Call Her Patty” recently completed its run at Lincoln Center Theater at the Claire Tow Theater. The Zarina Shea play gave us three characters: Patty, an older, rich white woman; her niece Sammy, who she raised; and her daughter Cecile. Sammy, the narrator of the play, introduces the audience to Patty and describes her everyday activities; her family construct, with her husband in the house but never seen; and her constantly cooking food for her dog.
Listening to Sammy’s description of Patty’s daily activities, especially since she is older, one might think she had a charmed existence with exercise classes, leisurely activities, and gossiping about people; however, her life is anything but that. Sitting in the audience, you realize that the title of this play means so much. “Let’s Call Her Patty” is a way of saying that she is like many people whom we see every day, but we don’t know the problems they face in their lives.
Her daughter, Cecile, a sculptor who works with clay, is preparing for an exhibition of her work and has not been to her parents’ home in some time. She also has a terrible eating disorder, and although Patty worries about her lack of eating, still tries to downplay what is happening with her daughter—all the while criticizing the lives of other people whom she and her niece know. Patty judges people very easily: When a neighbor’s son becomes an addict, she blames the neighbor for smothering him. Patty is someone who has to confront her own failures in life. She has to realize that her daughter has decided to not only turn to drugs for comfort, but that mentally, she does not understand how to feel anymore. Patty has to admit to the part that she has had in enabling her daughter to be the person she is today.
Rhea Perlman took on the role of Patty with such distinction. She let the audience see every layer of Patty’s personality and every moment of her despair. She made it clear that Patty could be anyone and made the character relatable in a way that touched the heart. Of course, she was also funny.
Leslie Rodriguez Kritzer was absolutely mesmerizing and at times humorous as Sammy. Arielle Goldman was stirring as Cecile. Her struggle with life was so evident and at times painful to watch.
One scene in particular stood out for me: a moment when Patty goes to see Cecile at a rehabilitation center and Patty asks how Cecile is doing. However, when Cecile tries to speak, Patty continuously speaks over her. It just showed how overwhelmed and under-equipped Patty felt that she could not even allow her daughter to speak her full thoughts.
This play definitely left an impression. “Let’s Call Her Patty” was directed brilliantly by Margot Bordelon.