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Tuesday, 12 July 2011 16:20

Savage in Limbo at your neighborhood bar.

Written by Steve Callahan
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The Details

St. Louis audiences are being treated to a lovely feast of John Patrick Shanley. After a surfeit of his popular play, Doubt, in recent years we have, in the past two weeks, been invited to take stimulating sips from Shanley's earlier works. Pat upon the closing of Non-Prophet's splendid Danny and the Deep Blue Sea we have the fine offering of Savage in Limbo by the On Site Theatre Company.

Many small companies are gypsies by necessity; they have no permanent address and they yearn for a home. But with On Site that's part of their charter. This group finds interesting venues—from hotels to old mansions to restaurants to public rest-rooms—and develops productions specifically for those sites. Usually their plays are new, commissioned works.

But now they offer an excellent production of Savage in Limbo—an early play by this popular playwright. And it's a winner! It's being staged in Cusumano's, an iconic neighborhood bar on Manchester, and the site couldn't be more perfect. We meet three young women who were—well, acquaintances—in high school. Each has come to a critical juncture in her life.

Denise, played with wonderful honesty and forthrightness by Jenn Bock, is a thirty-two-year-old virgin who wants something more in her life. Julie Venegoni is perfect—warm, fiery and vulnerable—as Linda Rotunda (I just had to give you that last name). She's a thirty-two-year-old anything-BUT-a-virgin whose long-term fella has decided he wants something only ugly girls can give him. (No, no! Restrain your imagination. It has something to do with talk about Soviet wheat imports.) And the always delightful Colleen Backer is quite delicious as April, whose early disillusion with a charismatic priest has left her spending much of her time in an alcoholic fog in this friendly bar. Jared Sanz-Agero hits the perfect tone as Murk, the bartender, who keeps insisting that everyone have a working drink ("It's a rule!") and who is surprisingly tender and protective toward April. Eric White does fine work as Tony, Linda's fella, who is a little befuddled by the sudden assertiveness of all these women.

But this is much more than your usual young playwright's dallying with dysfunctional people.

John Patrick Shanley gives us wit and a refreshing and articulate insight into relationships—and into life.

Director Anna Maria Pileggi has done fine work in staging this lovely and thoughtful dance of desires.

On Site Theatre's production of Savage in Limbo plays at Cusumano's through July 16.

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