(Michael Feingold’s article appeared in the Village Voice, 7/26,)
The Patsy (the Duke on 42nd Street) is one of the most remarkable, and one of the most peculiar, theater events I've ever witnessed. Precedents exist for it: The 1927 musical Show Boat, in its complete form, actually contains two segments in which something of the kind occurs. But these and similar virtuosic stunts were only meant to divert audiences for a few minutes. The Patsy is, quite literally, something else: a complete, 70-minute performance, by one actor, of a multi-character three-act play, in compressed form, more for the purpose of conveying the play's substance than to show off the actor's skill.
Naturally, the skill is also to the point. An actor lacking the virtuoso flamboyance to make the audience "see" all the characters wouldn't convey the play's substance. A visionary element, akin to surrealism, is also involved. The event amounts to a questioning of the elements of theater: To transmit the essence of a traditional play, how much of anything do you really need? How many actors, how much scenery and lighting, how many physical exits and entrances? King Lear thought he needed a hundred knights to affirm his kingship; his harsh but practical daughter asked him, "What need one?"