David Greenspan sets the tone for a delightful evening of theater magic by jumping onto a jewel-box stage set at the start of The Patsy. There are no doorways on this set, nor is there a ceiling; it’s a three-walled cube tastefully decorated with wallpaper and a few sticks of period furniture and props. In the nonstop 75-minute solo performance that follows, Greenspan resurrects a drawing-room comedy from the 1920s—three acts of family drama, witty banter, and romance, complete with a cast of eight characters. First presented on Broadway in 1925, the play, written by Barry Conners, centers on the Harringtons, a quarrelsome middle-class family. The father is a weary travelling salesman, the mother a social-climbing complainer, the elder daughter has just snagged a rich suitor, and the younger, bookish and disregarded by the others, harbors a secret passion for her sister’s former, now discarded, lover. Without ever leaving the stage, Greenspan gleefully impersonates all the characters, which includes the girls’ two young beaus and two walk-ons, charting their comings and goings and their emotional ups and downs, and setting the scene as needed by reading occasional stage directions as well.
A multiple OBIE winner and Drama Desk nominee, Greenspan is a frequent and distinctive presence on the New York stage. It’s not exactly a surprise to see him turn out a bravura performance. Looking back at some of his career highlights, one doesn’t easily forget his over the top Other Mother in Coraline, a musical he co-wrote with composer/lyricist Stephin Merritt; his exquisitely stylized portrayal of the acerbic Harold in the 1996 revival of Mart Crowley’s The Boys in the Band; or the exasperating drag queen who delivers a moving rendition of “Over the Rainbow” on the eve of the Stonewall uprising in Terrence McNally’s Some Men. Going even further back in time, you might also recall his one-of-a-kind turn as a neurotic artist obsessively channeling Streisand in the 1992 Public Theater production of his own The Home Show Pieces. No stranger to multiple roles, he has also breezed singlehandedly through his own The Myopia, a 25-character cavalcade extravagantly subtitled “an epic burlesque of tragic proportion,” which was revived in January last year.