The Curious Savage, presented by the Towne Players of Garner and directed by Beth Honeycutt, tells the story of Mrs. Ethel P. Savage (Frances Stanley), a wealthy widow who marches to a decidedly different drum than her three greedy stepchildren who have her committed to a sanitarium after her husband’s death, so that she won’t squander the family fortune on quixotic causes.
Mrs. Savage is a delightfully different woman; but even though she might have a few fanciful ideas, she is most definitely not crazy. The sanity of the lovable friends whom she makes in the sanitarium, however, is questionable. In fact, the whole show begs audience members to define “crazy,” a task that seems a lot more complicated after viewing John Patrick’s fascinating and thought-provoking 1950 comedy.
The Garner Historic Auditorium is successfully converted into the sitting room of the sanitarium, thanks to an elaborate and believable set designed by technical director Scott Honeycutt and the members of the cast themselves. The uncredited costumes are also eye catching, and (to mix metaphors) provide colorful plumage, so that the characters can fully blossom.
Highlights of the show include Mrs. Savage’s purple and white polka dotted and striped dress and feather hat, and the colorful tutus and glittering tops worn by her friend and fellow sanitarium resident Fairy May (Maggie Barton). These outrageous outfits perfectly fit the delightful and childlike Fairy, who believes, despite the harsh truth, that she is beautiful. The rich and snobby Lily Belle (Sharon Pearce), arguably the most evil of Mrs. Savage’s greedy stepchildren, also benefits from clever costume choices, such as a flowing gold lame jacket.
Frances Stanley twinkles in her star turn as Mrs. Savage, making the character both lovable and sympathetic; but it is Maggie Barton’s Fairy May who steals the show. Barton creates a character who is both emotionally complex and simple, a difficult feat for any actress.
Leslie’s Dahlin’s screaming, ranting Mrs. Paddy, who only speaks to list the things she hates; Stuart Jonap’s scarred and somber Jeff; and Kelly Stansell’s nurturing Florence are all notable as well. Smaller roles in the show, however, lack the complexity and understanding that the writing demands. Lesi Jonap’s Miss Willie is flat and one-dimensional, and stepchildren Samuel (Tim Stancil) and Titus (Tim Wiest) are, respectively, over the top and underplayed.
Despite these minor flaws, The Curious Savage is enjoyable. Color and vibrancy fill the stage and beautiful dialogue gems such as, “Nothing makes the truth seem so shabby as a magnificent lie,” make it difficult for the viewer to decide whether to laugh or cry. Although, at times, it is glaringly obvious that this is community theater, other moments — such as the lovely tableau in which the audience briefly sees the sanitarium residents as they see themselves — give even the professionals a run for their money.
SECOND OPINION: To read Triangle Arts & Entertainment’s online version of the Oct. 8th Triangle Theater Review preview by Robert W. McDowell, click http://triangleartsandentertainment.org/2010/10/greedy-stepchildren-put-wealthy-eccentric-widow-in-a-sanatorium-in-john-patricks-rib-tickling-comedy-the-curious-savage/.
The Towne Players presents THE CURIOUS SAVAGE at 8 p.m. Oct. 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.
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).
To read all of Susie Potter’s Triangle Arts & Entertainment reviews online, click http://triangleartsandentertainment.org/author/susie-q/.