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Greedy Stepchildren Put Wealthy, Eccentric Widow in a Sanatorium in John Patrick’s Rib-Tickling Comedy “The Curious Savage”

Frances Stanley stars in "The Curious Savage"

Frances Stanley stars in "The Curious Savage"

For the final production of its 2010 season, the Towne Players of Garner, NC will present The Curious Savage, a rib-tickling 1950 comedy by prize-winning Louisville, KY-born playwright and screenwriter John Patrick (1905-95), on Oct. 8, 9, and 14-16 in recently renovated 470-seat Garner Historic Auditorium. Patrick won both the 1954 Tony Award® for Best Play and the 1954 Pulitzer Prize for Drama for The Teahouse of the August Moon.

“People are always suggesting that I read plays they have seen or heard about,” reports Towne Players artistic director Elizabeth Honeycutt. “I’ve found some really great shows that way. After a few people suggested The Curious Savage to me, I thought I’d give it a look. Upon reading the script, I felt it was perfect for our audiences. It’s funny but very touching at the same time.”

She adds, “I love the messages behind [The Curious Savage]. It’s definitely bittersweet and does not have a perfectly happy ending. It gives you just enough to make you think and wonder about these people. I love a show that makes me laugh and cry in the same act.”

The Curious Savage made its Broadway debut, directed by Peter Glenville, on Oct. 24, 1950 at the Martin Beck Theatre, where it played 31 performances before closing on Nov .18, 1950. The show starred the silent-screen queen Lillian Gish as wealthy, eccentric widow Ethel P. Savage, whose three greedy stepchildren have her committed to a sanitarium rather than have her give her fortune away to help people realize their impossible dreams.

When the curtain rises, director Beth Honeycutt says, “Mrs. Savage [Towne Players’ mainstay Frances Stanley] has been left millions by her departed husband. When she decides to create a happiness fund to help people achieve their foolish dreams, her stepchildren [Tim Wiest as the string-pulling U.S. Senator Titus, Tim Stancil as the corrupt judge Samuel, and Sharon Pearce as the much-married socialite Lily Belle] take action by sending her to The Cloisters, a ‘rest home,’ so that they may take control of the fortune.

“Mrs. Savage is one step ahead, however,” says Honeycutt. “It seems she has sold everything and turned the money into bonds, which she has hidden. With the help of the other guests at The Cloisters, she comes to realize what is important in life.”

In addition to the actors named above, the Towne Players’ cast for The Curious Savage includes Randy W. Jordan as Dr. Emmett and Lesi Jonap as his administrative assistant Miss Wilhelmina, who run The Cloisters. The sanitarium “residents” — a motley crew who often seem saner than the grandstanding Savage stepchildren — include Kelly Stansell as the overly protective mother Florence Williams, whose beloved son John Thomas turns out to be a doll; Michael McGee as former statistician and self-taught but totally inept violinist Hannibal; Stuart Jonap as shell-shocked former fighter pilot Jeffery; Maggie Barton as attention-seeking compulsive liar Fairy May; and Leslie Dahlin as the talentless painter Mrs. Paddy, who has taken a vow of silence.

In addition to director Beth Honeycutt, the show’s creative team includes her husband and the Towne Players’ renaissance man, Scott Honeycutt, and stage manager Marti Hall.

“We have several new folks working with us this show,” notes Beth Honeycutt, “as well as a few actors we haven’t seen on the Garner stage for a couple of years. It is a tight, talented cast that has been wonderful with which to work.”

The Towne Players presents THE CURIOUS SAVAGE at 8 p.m. Oct. 8, 9, 14, and 15 and 2 and 8 p.m. Oct. 16 in Garner Historic Auditorium, 742 W. Garner Rd., Garner, North Carolina 27529.

TICKETS: $12 ($10 students and seniors 55+).

BOX OFFICE: Tickets will be sold at the door. SHOW: http://www.towneplayers.org/performances/current-season/.

PRESENTER: http://www.towneplayers.org/.

VENUE: http://www.ci.garner.nc.us/.

PARKING/DIRECTIONS: http://www.towneplayers.org/contact/directions-to-garner-historic-auditorium/.

OTHER LINKS:

The Play: http://www.ibdb.com/show.php?ID=2861 (Internet Broadway Database) and http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0922212/ (Internet Movie Database page for the 1958 ITV Play of the Week).

The Playwright: http://www.ibdb.com/person.php?id=6884 (Internet Broadway Database) and http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0665875/ (Internet Movie Database).

EDITOR’S NOTE:

Robert W. McDowell is editor and publisher of Triangle Theater Review, a FREE weekly e-mail theatrical newsletter that provides more comprehensive, in-depth coverage of Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill theater than all of the other news media combined. This review is reprinted with permission from Triangle Theater Review.

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