Tag Archives: Robert Patrick


Robert Patrick — Playwright Extraordinaire (1937-2023)

I woke up this morning to the news that Robert Patrick died a week ago in Los Angeles, where he had been living for many years. I can find no evidence that the Los Angeles Times took note of the passing of this very important playwright. Perhaps the publication of an obituary in the New York Times will shame the local paper into assigning a writer to work up their own version, but I wouldn’t bet on it. It’s been a long time since the L.A. Times had knowledgeable critics at the level of Dan Sullivan and Robert Kirsch.

Sullivan was the lead theater critic for the L.A. Times in the 1960s and 1970s, and he certainly knew and appreciated Patrick’s work. It might have been just a 99-seat theater on Pico Blvd., but Sullivan was there in 1974 to review the Burbage Theater production of “Robert Patrick’s Cheep Theatrics,” (“Cheep” is not a typo, by the way), directed by Ivan Spiegel and performed by a cast that included Julie Kavner and yours truly.

I remember that Patrick happened to be in town as we were in rehearsal and he dropped in on the theater. We sat on the stage and listened to him talk. I was too star-struck to hear what he was saying. He moved about the stage in a manner that said, “This is where I am most at home,” and he exuded a confidence in his comedy as being as enduring as the work of Aristophanes. He didn’t make that claim. He didn’t need to; the plays themselves had that insouciant aplomb.

“Cheep Theatrics” was a selection of short plays from a collection by that title, and in Ivan’s hands, we had considerable fun in staging them. In Sullivan’s view, we were were a little too emphatic, and needed less enthusiasm and more restraint. Even so, I remember that audiences truly enjoyed the sense of festivity as well as the poignancy of a love story told in reverse.

At a certain point in my youth, I began to realize that my talents were even more limited than I had suspected, and that I had to make a choice between poetry and theater. I chose poetry, but I still miss theater very much. I think I made the right choice, but hearing of Patrick’s death makes me remember all over again how hard that choice was to make. There are thousands of actors and actresses and directors who count their chance to be part of Patrick’s distinguished production history one of the special moments in their artistic lives. It is we who mourn the most. The best memories are no different than any performance in needing the preparation of repetition; and may our recollections rehearse in pleasure. R.I.P., Robert Patrick.