THE CURIOUS SAVAGE – Written by John Patrick; Directed by Munam Goodwyn. Produced by the Theatre Company of Lafayette (300 East Simpson, Lafayette) through October 7. Tickets available at 720-503-0024 or tclstage.org.
John Patrick is one of those little-known people who have carved a successful career for himself while remaining for the most part under the radar. How ironic that I recently used the name of one of his plays (without knowing it) – EVERYONE LOVES OPAL – as a symbol for amateur productions and then find myself in less than a week at a play of his making. All told, he wrote about 34 plays including the Tony award winner TEAHOUSE OF THE AUGUST MOON and the very successful THE HASTY HEART. In addition, he wrote the scripts for 27 movies including HIGH SOCIETY, SOME CAME RUNNING and THE WORLD OF SUZIE WONG. So even though we may not know him as well today, he in his time was extremely successful.
THE CURIOUS SAVAGE is a clever script slightly derivative of Mary Chase’s HARVEY written in 1944, six years before Patrick’s. Both involve lovable characters being locked up as loony by spiteful and greedy relatives, only to defeat them in the end. HARVEY is the more successful of the two, but CURIOUS SAVAGE has its own lesson to teach and does it with quiet humor. On a pretty set with a large red sofa and a lovely hand painted carpet, the play is set in the common room at an assisted living type place called the Cloisters. The six residents we got to know all have an almost psychosomatic mental condition of some sort that prevents them from functioning normally in the outside world. Or so their collective family seems to think so. Into their well-established nest comes Mrs. Ethel Savage, also forced by her family into a controlled environment. At the death of her husband, she has converted the family fortune into bonds and hidden them. Her two sons, Titus and Samuel, and daughter Lily Belle are furious and frustrated and try to bully her into telling them where the bonds are hidden. It’s obvious to the audience right away but, of course, that would be too easy. As time goes on, the staff gets to know her and trust her as well as the other residents. When push comes to shove, they are on her side.
If you want to know my feelings about community theatre (I’m in favor of it), read my review of INTO THE WOODS. This is a sterling example of what I mean by people in community theatre having fun and working together to solve the problems of the production. It’s obvious that everyone on stage is happy to be there, they have worked hard to fulfill their part of the story and they have become a mini family in doing so. The six actors playing the residents of the Cloisters have all created unique characters. Max Tomas is the human calculator Hannibal who doesn’t play the violin; Florence (True Aubrey) has overwhelming grief about her son who died in infancy; Jeffrey (Wes Kreitz) lost his comrades in the war and, while he came out without a scratch, believes himself horribly scarred; Fairy May (Hannah Richards) is so unhappy with her physical appearance, she has trouble telling reality from fantasy; Mrs. Paddy’s (Susanne Neswadi) husband years ago told her to shut up so she did; and John Thomas (Mar Starz) doesn’t like electricity and keeps turning the lights off. But together they watch out for each other and survive.
In contrast to these gentle souls, enter the three greedy stepchildren of Mrs. Savage. Titus (Don Thumim) is a Senator (now there’s a current statement!), Samuel (Jake Fleming) is a Judge while daughter Lily Belle is a Kardashian – her only function in life is to be pretty and spend money. As Patrick intended, the contrast between the gentle souls of the Cloisters, the generous Mrs. Savage who wants to set up a fund with the money to give to people who just want to make their dreams come true, and the greedy narcissistic stepchildren is powerful.
The staff at the home consists of a doctor (Michelle Jacobs) with a no-nonsense attitude about all these shenanigans and a nurse (Judy Carlson) who proves extremely clever when they are all up against the wall.
Every community theatre needs one or two people who shoulder the work, make the choices of productions, make sure everything gets done on time, answers the phone no matter what time it is, and makes sure the ticket holders are greeted at the door. For the Theatre Company of Lafayette, one of those people is Madge Montgomery. You usually see her backstage or in the ticket booth, but for this show, she was cast as the curious Mrs. Savage. She inhabits a quiet graceful persona that exudes kindness and generosity. When she must be clever, she is very clever.
A seldom done, but fun script with a message – just what every good community theatre needs.
A WOW factor of 8!