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"I, Patty Diphusa, International Sex Symbol": A Theater Review

By Tom Sime, KERA 90.1 Commentator

Dallas, TX – The subtext of "I, Patty Diphusa, International Sex Symbol" is the libertine explosion in Madrid after the death of the despot dictator Franco. The surface, however, is sex, sex, and more sex. This theatrical world premiere from Our Endeavors Theater Company is based on the work of Pedro Almodovar. He's best known as Spain's bad-boy film director, the man behind "Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown" and the recent foreign-film Oscar winner "All About My Mother."

In Almodovar's world, every woman is a drag queen, and vice versa, regardless of anatomy at birth. Back in the early Eighties, he wrote a spoof column for the magazine "La Luna," posing as fictional porno star Patty Diphusa. Patty revels in, and comments on, the licentious goings-on in a city intoxicated with its own freedom. As in his films, Almodovar stretches boundaries even for the most liberal. Patty has sex in public restrooms, slurps up every drug she can find, and takes her own rape in stride as par for the course on a night of partying.

In Our Endeavors' stage adaptation, she's played by the phenomenal actress, Christina Vela, who shows off her voluptuous proportions in a whirlwind of tight-fitting costumes, ranging from a leather merry widow to an ensemble of polka-dot frock and oven mitts. She's aided by Mark Odell and Zaron White, leather-clad henchmen who portray everyone from rapists, to boyfriends, to boyfriends' mothers. Jim Hopkins plays "The Cabbie Who Looked Like Robert Mitchum," who gives Patty a mystery man to follow around Madrid, and a goal to fixate on when she's feeling her career is on the skids.

Patty Diphusa: "Not even the news that my movies had been banned in Poland, which makes them best sellers on the black market, could lift my spirits. I needed something - I don't know what. Money, for example. With all the fame, people think I just want to be a writer, and they've stopped offering me parts in skin flicks. I think I should get back into porno. I've abandoned it a little, and it's not a good idea for a writer to forget her roots. And I wouldn't mind seeing the cabbie who looks like Robert Mitchum again. But how can I find him?"

Ms. Vela's star turn makes for a mesmerizing spectacle, and it's a good thing, since the show rests somewhat heavily on her Rubenesque shoulders. She cavorts on a set full of gadgets, including a collapsible restroom booth and video screens on which we see slapsticky simulated pornography and a fun bit in which Patty interviews Almodovar, who's also played by Ms. Vela.

The main problem with "Patty" as a play is that none of this complexity was lavished on the script itself. In adapting Almodovar's writings, John Flores and director Mark Farr primarily have Patty recite the text of the columns while she and her cohorts act them out, rather than actually turning them into dramatic scenes with dialogue. So at its core, despite all the frantic deployment of props and gimmicks, "Patty" is static and page-bound. Still, Our Endeavors further cements its reputation for daring with this show, which has something to offend everyone, including libertines themselves. Alas, its busy agenda makes "I, Patty Diphusa" go on and on, dragging us through the muck at a length that will try the patience of even the most ardent masochist.