Review by Brittany Crowell
Daniel is a solitaire champion, the best. His fiancée Jordan is left feeling solitary in their furniture-less new house as he unpacks boxes of books and moves art from one side of the room to the next, trying to find “home.”
Ella is only eighteen but a shark – she sees herself as the Serena Williams of solitaire and knows that she will rise to the top and defeat the standing champion.
Patience at second stage theater uptown looks at the loneliness of fame within the loneliest sport. Playwright, Johnny G. Lloyd opens on the husbands-to-be in their new house looking at paint gradients on the walls and discussing the pressures of Daniel’s life and the future they are trying to build together, however, as the play progresses, this initial story line gets fractured, leading to a relatively uncooked and distracted final draft.
While Patience explores the loneliness of fame, the play seems to be serving other half-baked purposes. Daniel’s mother, portrayed by a playful Mary E. Hodges, has decided to expand her business of managing solitaire players with a rival player. This devastates Daniel, but the mother’s motives are given stage-time and Daniel is quick to forgive and move on. Daniel’s friend Nikita (played by the effervescent Nemuna Ceesay) has left the sport of solitaire to explore multiple careers. Does she miss it? Is she happier now? These questions are asked, but the audience is left to wonder.
Much of the play feels too easy. Daniel’s partner is too perfect, easily forgiving every hurtful remark, and forever patient with Daniel’s inability to connect. Daniel doesn’t address the many people in his life who support his opponent behind his back, moving forward without reconciliation.
A standout performer and character within the piece is Ella. Her objectives feel clear and she navigates each scene with vigor and a shark-like bite, via an equally vivacious performance from Zainab Barry. Her final monologue of the piece resonates off the page.
Zhailon Levingston’s direction does not help the story to reach the boiling point; many moments are performed without specificity, and the logic of the world isn’t clearly established. In a play about solitaire, the game is seldom played with any sense of reality, stakes, or care. Paint cans and boxes full of linens and books are thrown around the stage with ease (obviously empty), while a statue for the apartment is scuttled (by a charming huffing and puffing Jonathan Burke) around the apartment with extreme weight.
Scenic designer Lawrence E. Moten III sets a stage within a card-shaped proscenium, utilizing curves, squares and rectangles to emulate the game within the fabric of the space. Costume designer Avery Reed takes the couple’s opening quandary to heart, utilizing specific gradients to dress the various characters of the piece and building a colorful palette for the white space. Lighting by Adam Honoré utilizes interesting colors and creates some beautiful pictures, but at the most pivotal moments of the play gets so moody that the actors become shadows, their faces invisible to the audience as they make some of the plays greatest discoveries.
Patience explores interesting themes, relationships, conflict but feels unpolished. The exploration is unfocused, and while Daniel’s situation is relatable, his journey is distracted and as an audience viewer, I was not brought along on an emotionally invested journey, making me wish for a few more drafts, a little more workshopping to really focus in on the heart of the piece and bring us on this journey from loneliness to discovery with its main character.
PATIENCE – by Johnny G. Lloyd; directed by Zhailon Levingston
FEATURING: Zainab Barry (Ella); Jonathan Burke (Jordan); Nemuna Ceesay (Nikita); Justin Davis (Daniel); Mary E. Hodges (Mother)
Set design by Lawrence E. Moten III; costume design by Avery Reed; lighting design by Adam Honoré; sound design by Christopher Darbassie; stage management by Genevieve Ortiz. Presented by 2nd Stage Uptown: Carole Rothman, producing and artistic director; Khady Kamara, executive director. 95 minutes, no intermission. https://2st.com/shows/patience