David Greenspan is a one-man whirlwind as he gleefully enacts every role in "The Patsy," a 1925 comedy by Barry Connors about a dysfunctional middle-class American family.
The lighthearted Transport Group production, which opened Sunday night off-Broadway at The Duke on 42nd Street, takes place in the imaginatively used living room of the Harrington household. Greenspan is simply amazing to watch, as he deftly characterizes the family of four, plus friends and suitors for the daughters.
The unhappy home is dominated by a selfish, manipulative, 24-year-old daughter, Grace, and her equally unpleasant mother, May. Hard-working father Bill is often away traveling on business, which leaves his sweet, kind-hearted, 19-year-old daughter, Patricia, to fend for herself against her cold mother and sister.
Greenspan, a five-time Obie Award winner, skillfully presents the multiple characters without costuming, aided by the direction of Jack Cummings III. He combines gestures, body language and different voices to constantly create the impression of several people onstage together. Dashing around Dane Laffrey's neat, spare set, Greenspan presents credible, often heated dialogues among as many as four characters at a time.
He's especially poignant as Patricia, struggling to find acceptance from her mother and sister, and as Tom, the young man she secretly loves. Their scenes together are adroitly handled, as are the marital battles between Bill and his nagging wife, with the daughters sometimes chiming in as well.
This spirited 75-minute version of "The Patsy" was abridged by Greenspan, Cummings and dramaturg Kristina Williams.
Greenspan is also presenting a new one-man show that he wrote, performing it on certain days along with "The Patsy." Titled "Jonas," it's an existential monologue of sorts, with Greenspan rapidly alternating personas again, performing as both "an actor" and as a character the actor once played, a 133-year-old man named Jonas.
Jonas ranges across more than a century of memories, reminiscing about people he's known and places he's been. Greenspan's stylized phrasing creates a deliberate, hypnotizing cadence of memory fragments, a fascinating imagining of the way an actor might inhabit a character and try to get inside their mind.
Both productions are performing through Aug. 13.