This review was originally written for EdFringeReview.com
Titled misleadingly, An Evening With Patti DuPont is in fact an evening with the fabricated daughter of a (mostly) fictional, highly controversial, and entirely ridiculous 20th Century film star. The audience having being informed that the ‘legendary’ Patti DuPont is regrettably unavailable due to an unfortunate surgical accident, Anna Emerson breathlessly takes to the stage as Linda DuPont, Patti’s adopted daughter, to rescue the evening. An enjoyable parody of celebrity self-marketing, the show is presented as an intimate lecture on the life and work of a Hollywood actress, the comedy stemming from substitute presenter Linda’s endearing personality and complete ineptitude with regards to the task in hand.
Stumbling to the stage in an ill-fitting jacket and bright-red helmet, Linda hastily apologises and begins an awkward commentary on her mother’s career – an absorbingly absurd saga of passionate love affairs and amusingly bizarre film-titles – throughout which their dysfunctional relationship becomes apparent. Increasingly hostile phone calls from her mother punctuate the evening, and although this device is at first enjoyable for its novelty, it soon becomes tiresome, as do the feeble attempts at audience interaction.
When immediately wrong-footing the audience in this manner, there is a particularly fine line between subtlety and exaggeration, which Emerson at times walks as deftly as a tight-rope walker, but at times slips from with regrettable awkwardness. When charting the life of her mother, with the assistance of a brilliantly designed slideshow, she commendably balances Linda’s shy, inherently reserved (but morally obligated) personality with the enthusiasm necessary to render the story entertaining. Once this story-telling is over, however, and the structure provided by it is lost, her performance veers towards exaggeration, resulting in uncomfortable moments of audience silence during the more exuberant moments.
The show’s true strength lies in the empathy Emerson manages to evoke for Linda. With a combination of believable timidity and entirely relatable frustration (mainly towards the absent Patti), she competently draws the audience in; thus if the laughs die hard, emotional content can still be found in sympathising with the show’s pitiable host.
It could not be said that An Evening With Patti DuPont is a relaxing and enjoyable experience – Emerson’s ultimate inability to consistently balance believability and exaggeration ensure that the audience is always on edge – but it is for the most part emotionally engaging, with a thoroughly laudable character portrayal at its heart.