If there's a more consistently employed Valley stage actor than Patti Hannon, I'll be very surprised to hear it.
Ever since Maripat Donovan's nationwide hit, the interactive Catholicism-inspired hoot Late Night Catechism, started its Scottsdale run in 2000, Hannon has appeared as Sister, a fun-loving yet strict Polish-American nun and teacher.
By now, most people who stay here in the summer and care to see Catechism and its several sequels (also starring Hannon) have done so, so the show very sensibly takes the hot months off.
And although Hannon has said she appreciates her status as a recurring character who can perform in sneakers and no hairdo, she is a bona fide Skilled Professional Actress, so it's a nice change for her and us, as well as an enormous coup for Space 55 Theatre, to have her appearing in Phillip Egan Schmiedl's The Bakers of Lakewood. (Nothing else about the show is "nice" -- just so you know what we're getting into.)
Hannon is Millie Baker, a woman so fat she cannot leave her sofa. Her adult son, Dewey (played by Clifton Highfield), lives with her but has decided to move out. That's all I think I should tell you about the plot. I don't even want to tell you why I don't want to tell you more.
Sometimes (in life as well as in art) you're presented with a situation and you're pretty sure you can see what's coming. Sometimes you find out that not only were you mistaken, what comes is entirely outside the realm of the options you'd thought were possible. Either that happens in The Bakers of Lakewood, or it doesn't. You tell me.
Part of your conclusion will depend on when you choose to believe what the characters say. People don't always tell the truth. Sometimes they do, and no one believes them. Sometimes they change their story three or four times and still haven't told the truth. Sometimes the truth is never told. Sometimes you'll never know.
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Space 55 artistic director Shawna Franks plays the third character. She is a crackling Tesla ball sharing energy with the two other mindblowingly proficient cast members. I wish we had more opportunities to see her perform.
I probably need to attend more improv or something, where I have a feeling I'd find her. Or Seven Minutes in Heaven, next month. Or the New York International Fringe Festival, where Space 55's production of Greg Kotis' The Unhappiness Plays is going to tear up the Big Apple. (Or somebody needs to give her theater a bunch more money so she has some free time.)
The Bakers of Lakewood continues through Saturday, May 28, at Space 55 Theatre, 636 East Pierce Street. For tickets, $20, click here.