When you look in the mirror do you see yourself, or do you find refuge in an eggshell world where you don’t belong? Do you believe a man is what he claims to be? Or you do you see the worst, in hopes the worst isn’t as bad as you had expected? Or at the very worst, are you just a carnard mort (dead duck)? These are just a few of life’s questions of the patients residing in The Cloisters sanatorium.
The Forest Moon Theater of Wake Forest, NC presents the quirky, endearing community-theater production of The Curious Savage. As we are seated, we are treated to some classic 1940’s music. The set is the beautiful living room of The Cloisters of Massachusetts, complete with vintage radio, piano, card table with chairs, and Victorian-inspired lighting sconces.
Veteran thespian and first-time director and Mike McGee takes us on journey of fantasy, friendship, and self-awareness. It’s hard to believe that this is McGee’s directorial debut. I have had the pleasure of working with McGee onstage, and it was nice to see him shine offstage as well. He masterfully navigates his actors on a constrained stage and through quirky dialogue.
The Curious Savage, although not a farce, could easily fall victim to overacting. Under McGee’s direction, the actors did a great job of playing the charm of the characters while keeping them real.
We are first introduced to the long-term patients of The Cloisters who are anxiously awaiting the arrival of a new patient. Fairy May, played by Kylee Silvas, is a quirky, plain-looking girl who thinks she is a beauty queen, yet lacks confidence in herself and in life. Florence Williams, played by Ashley Rebecca Jones, is an upper-class socialite who carries around a doll that she thinks is her five-year old living child.
Hannibal the statistician “math magician,” played by Joey Desena, tries to woo everyone, especially Fairy May, with his self-taught violin playing. Jeffery, played by Danny Mullins, is the veteran who has lost his way. He is a concert pianist who is too scarred by life to continue to perform. Then there is Mrs. Paddy, played by Lisa Binion, the self-determined mute who hates everything, especially her husband for telling her to shut-up.
Enter Ethel Savage, played by Louise Farmer, the newest member of The Cloisters and her Savage stepchildren: Samuel, played by Tom Barbieri, the judge who always gets overruled by his siblings; Titus, played by Randy Jordan, the least popular Senator in Congress; and vixen celebrity heiress Lily Belle, played by Kathleen Jacobs.
Ethel has decided to use the fortune that her husband left her to set up a memorial fund that would be used to help normal people pursue seemingly foolish dreams. She decides to invest in bonds and hide the $10 million in the most curious of places. Since she refuses to turn over her inherited fortune to her stepchildren, the Savage clan convince Dr. Emmett, played by Abby Jordan, and her nurse assistant Miss Willie, played by Shana Fisher, to admit their stepmother into the asylum.
We learn many things throughout the show, including how money can bring out the worst in people. We also see how misfits and those cast aside or deemed unworthy can band together in their awkwardness and form a special type of family.
Forest Moon Theater’s presentation of The Curious Savage is truly a great example of ensemble work. It doesn’t matter how many lines you have or if you never leave the stage, this type of show works well, because the actors have good chemistry and play well off of each other.
Although this show is an ensemble piece, a few characters stood out. Kathleen Jacobs as Lilly Belle is the sassy vixen that you want to slap and throw darts at. She doesn’t overplay her mean-girl character and is super-funny when she is in the middle of her own mental breakdown. Kylee Silvas as Fairy May is cute, quirky, and actually too pretty for the part she played.
Lisa Binion as Mrs. Paddy is a lady of few words, but has the most wonderful facial expressions. I enjoyed watching her onstage, seemingly forgotten in the background, and even more so when she spoke of everything she hated.
The set is a collaboration from consultant David Bissette, director Mike McGee, producer Bob Baird, and master carpenter Tony Womack. They have effectively created not only a beautiful set, but also a functional one. They have utilized every inch of the stage, which allows for seamless entrances and exits of the actors.
The ending of the play is bittersweet and heartwarming. I think it was staged perfectly and gives theatergoers a taste of the ending that they had hoped all of the characters would have had.
You only have three more chances to catch this show, which will conclude this coming weekend. The show runs Friday, June 23rd, through Sunday, June 25th.
The Forest Moon Theater presents THE CURIOUS SAVAGE at 7:30 p.m. June 23 and 24 and 3 p.m. June 25 Wake Forest Renaissance Centre for the Arts, 405 S. Brooks St., Wake Forest, North Carolina 27587.
TICKETS: $15 ($13 students and seniors 65+) in advance and $18 ($16 students and seniors 65+) the day of the show.
BOX OFFICE: http://www.etix.com/ticket/.
INFORMATION: 919-435-2001 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
2016-17 SEASON: http://www.forestmoontheater.org/current-season/.
The Curious Savage (1950 Broadway comedy): http://www.dramatists.com/cgi-bin/db/single.asp?key=1154 (Dramatists Play Service, Inc.), https://www.ibdb.com/broadway-show/the-curious-savage-2861 (Internet Broadway Database), and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Curious_Savage (Wikipedia).
The Script: http://books.google.com/ (Google Books).
John Patrick (Louisville, KY-born playwright and screenwriter, nee John Patrick Goggin, 1905-95): https://www.ibdb.com/broadway-cast-staff/john-patrick-6884 (Internet Broadway Database), http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0665875/ (Internet Movie Database), and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Patrick_(dramatist) (Wikipedia).
Mike McGee (Raleigh, NC director): https://www.facebook.com/Mike.McGee9 (Facebook page).
Shannon Plummer-White is no stranger to the stage! She studied Musical Theater & Opera at the American Musical Dramatic Academy in New York City, and has appeared in films such as Iron Man 3 and Safe Haven. She has also performed with the North Carolina Master Chorale and the North Carolina Symphony. When she isn’t on stage or making magic behind the scenes, she can be found in the art studio playing with fire and molten glass. She is an animal advocate with a special love of cats. She has four rescued fur children and a very supportive husband. Click here to read her reviews for Triangle Review and Triangle Arts and Entertainment.