Former Saturday Night Live cast member Julia Sweeney considers herself “the Al Jolson of androgyny.” She’s best remembered from SNL for portraying Pat, a character whose ambiguous gender is the subject of much speculation.
In her one-woman show Older and Wider, Sweeney breezes past her career in comedy and shares charming stories about what came next: the life of a stay-at-home mom in Wilmette, having the idyllic “bread-eater” fantasy with a husband and their daughter, Mulan. Her material concerns suburban-parent rites of passage. When Mulan was learning how to drive, Sweeney had her practice in a place where she could do no harm to fellow motorists: a cemetery. When Mulan began dating a Trump supporter, Sweeney meddled with their relationship and sent her husband to pry into the reasons behind the boyfriend’s political leanings. Sweeney’s past TV work is addressed only in the context of her screening It’s Pat: The Movie for Mulan when she was in grade school. Her daughter’s initial excitement evaporated with every passing minute.
The rhythm of Older and Wider is reminiscent of a sitcom. Sweeney’s in awe of Wrigley Field’s long history and ivy-covered walls. “Then I realized I was now required to watch a baseball game,” she says, cringing and grinning. Though she lacks some polish and abandons topics too rapidly, her conversational tone and self-effacing humor welcome audience members into her friendship circle. By the end, Sweeney’s comfortable enough to share secrets. One of them: It’s Pat: The Movie, she says, “is a terrible movie. It’s taken me 27 years to admit.” v