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The Curious Savage
a Comedy
CATEGORY : COMEDY
by John Patrick

COMPANY : Polk Street Players [WEBSITE]
VENUE : Stellar Cellar
ID# 3922

SHOWING : February 18, 2011 - March 05, 2011

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PRODUCTION DESCRIPTION

Mrs. Ethel Savage, a slightly eccentric, extremely wealthy widow, being the recipient of her deceased husband’s estate, she wants to make the best use of it, despite her greedy stepchildren’s selfish attempts to get their hands on it. Mrs. Savage, however, has put her wealth into negotiable bonds in the hopes of establishing a fund to help others realize their hopes and dreams, much to the siblings’ chagrin. They then commit her to a “sanitorium” in the hopes of shocking her to her senses. There she meets a variety of social misfits, all needing exactly the kind of help Mrs. Savage can provide and who eventually appear more sane that those outside the walls of the institution. These wonderful individuals immediately endear themselves to Mrs. Savage. With the help of her new-found friends, Mrs. Savage leads her stepchildren on a merry chase! A lovely story about what it means to be a family.


CAST & CREW LIST
Producer Pete Borden
Director Barbara Joanne Rudy
Stage Manager Joanna Averch
Set Design Michael Campion
Lighting Design Brad Rudy
Jeffrey Richard Blair
Samuel Ed Crowell
Lilly Belle Lorie Dunn
Florence Tracey Egan
Miss Willie Jackie Estafen
Mrs. Ethel P. Savage Diane LeGrand-Hail
Titus John Mistretta
Mrs. Paddy Betty Mitchell
Hannibal Lane Teilhaber
Fairy May Rene' Voige
Dr. Emmett Jim Wilgus
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REVIEWS

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Tenacious Disconnects
by Dedalus
Tuesday, March 15, 2011
NR
BIAS DISCLAIMER: Okay, I’m married to the director of this one, so I’ll be writing on eggshells here. I also have some program credits (undeserved – all I did to help was tack the floorboard trim to the set). Even so, take everything I say with a tenacious grain of salt.

There are many many reasons to dislike John Patrick’s “The Curious Savage.” First and foremost, it has not aged particularly well. Written and set in the 1950’s, it boasts a worldview in which families could “put away” embarrassing eccentrics, in which the wealthy could walk into a hospital and order around the staff (not to mention harass the patients) with impunity, and in which schizophrenia was viewed as a charming eccentricity rather than the soul-starving, life-killing disease it truly is.

But, despite a disastrously short Broadway run, this play has endured with community and school groups unabated. It’s perhaps easy to see why. The characters are colorful and fun to play, the villains are hissable and vile, the heroine is plucky and wise, and it all ends with heartfelt coda that reminds us of the sadness that truly underlies these disconnected lives.

To recap the plot, the children of Ethel Savage (Diane LeGrand Hail) have committed her to “The Cloisters,” a nursing home for the rich and disturbed. They say it’s because her widowhood has driven her mad, but the truth is, they want to get their greedy hands on the family fortune. After some adventures with the other residents of the home, some miscommunications, some sleight-of-hand by the sympathetic staff, Mrs. Savage realizes … well, let’s just say that the “family is where you’re loved and welcome” theme never grows old.

The chief appeal of this play is in the supporting cast of misfits, the residents of “The Cloisters.” There is Fairy Mae (Rene Voige), an aging ingénue of limited appeal who sees herself as a Beautiful Fairy Princess. There is Hannibal (Lane Teilhaber), a man who never grew up, and who tries with all his heart to be a gifted violinist, though he hardly knows which end of the bow is up. Jeffrey (Richard Blair) was a war hero and a concert pianist who suffers from PTSD and Survivor’s Guilt, and who can’t remember that he has a wife (Jackie Estafen). Florence (Tracey Egan) has allowed the death of her child move her a little too far from reality. Mrs. Paddy just hates the world.

As to the villains, Mrs.’ Savage’s children (a senator, a judge, and a serial divorcee, played by John Mistretta, Ed Crowell, and Lorie Dunn) are a cross-section of hypocrisy, greed, dimness, and out-right vile behavior. Rounding out the cast is Dr. Emmett, who is well-meaning and kind, but terminally ineffective at standing up to anyone with a loud voice and a loud wallet.

I’ll refrain from commenting on the production itself due to my obvious bias (and because I saw the last preview, which, IMHO, showed a show “ready for opening”). I will say that any director who can fit that many people on that small a stage without looking (too) over-crowded deserves at least a “not bad.”

I still have a lot of problems with the script. The “guests” of “The Cloisters” “fall in like” with Mrs. Savage far too quickly to be anything but contrivance, and the dated attitudes towards women and the mentally ill grate far too much. But I still enjoyed my visit with these misfits, recognized that there is some recognition of the real problems that they face, and was thoroughly moved by the gentle coda (in which Mrs. Savage sees everyone as they see themselves).

At one point, a performance by Mrs. Savage during her “I’m going to be an actress” phase is described as “a tenacious mediocrity unhampered by taste.” I could be snarky and describe “The Curious Savage” the same way. Instead I’ll say that it has a “tenacious appeal unhampered by quality.” At least, that’s the way I see it, no matter how far from reality my vision may actually stray.

-- Brad Rudy (BK Rudy@aol.com)



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