Enchanting, heartwarming, witty… not the first words that usually come to mind when describing scenes from a mental institution, but all three fit the description of Village Players production of THE CURIOUS SAVAGE.
The curtain opens on a charming set, centered with a comfortable looking couch and french doors flanked by floor to ceiling bookshelves along the back wall. A lovely living space, complete with piano and collection of unique books, fit for a gathering place for a group of kind-hearted crazies.
Director Ed Young and AD Steve Underwood assembled a delightful cast of new and experienced actors. Even with a large group, each character brings a little something different without overshadowing one another.
At first, Ethel Savage (played by Barbara MacMullen) seems like any other eccentric senior as she casually enters stage right clutching a teddy bear and sporting a “saucy” crimson feathered pirate-looking hat. Later we discover that what her step-children see as crazy is just her desire to help others and cross items off her own bucket list. MacMullen keeps us guessing as to whether or not Ethel really does belong there. Ethel’s choice to pretend right along with her fellow inmates flows nicely with her own obsessive need to walk along the carpet’s edge.
With a name like Fairy May, you have to be delicate and poised, and Rachel Daly pulls this off with her slightly monotone dialogue and sensitive personality. She also gets the award for best one liners of the play, all delivered with expert timing and just the right amount of inflection. OK, so the girl likes to plant bird seed, but who wouldn’t like someone who strives to make life exciting and only says goodbye to people she doesn’t want to see again.
Miss Wilhelmina (played by Jessica Hansford) reminds me of Grace Farrell, the compassionate secretary in ANNIE. Throughout the show Willy has the gentleness of a kindergarten teacher and the gracefulness of a prima ballerina as she floats around the stage making the residents comfortable.
Matt Graglia made his first stage appearance as Dr.Emmett, but you would never guess he’s a first timer. The good doctor is as calming as a meditation session, exactly the kind of person you would want in a house of hysteria. I give a lot of credit to Young and Underwood for giving Matt this opportunity. Many directors shy away from giving a newbie a chance to shine, but that’s what community theater is all about.
Rounding out the rest of the committed party, Christopher DeWitt, Carole Gettmann, Thomas Settefrati and Jill Slater were all believable in their roles as lovable loonies.
Gary LaSasso, Rose Furmanski and Richard Hall all do their part to portray the grown yet still rude and spoiled step-children that are the epitome of their last name, Savage. Their performances are even enhanced with their hair and wardrobe choices in the second act.
Throughout the play I felt I had wandered into a philosophy lesson full of enlightening mirrored metaphors, inspiring me to travel “around the world while there was a world around,” or to learn the “importance of unimportant things.” There were also lessons on the many ways of saying I love you, and how to perceive the meaning of seemingly ordinary, yet precious gifts. At times I did wonder “where does reason end and madness begin?” However, I laughed along with the rest of the audience who thought this “colorful” and “hilarious” performance at Village Players was worth the trip to the nut house on a cold winter’s night.
THE CURIOUS SAVAGE
by John Patrick
Directed by Ed Young
January 7 – 22, 2011
Village Players of Hatboro
401 Jefferson Avenue