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Monday, 29 November 1999 18:00

The Curious Savage

Written by Andrea Braun
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Clayton Community Theatre

Through 11/11/2007
Reviewed by Andrea Braun
The Clayton Community Theatre has performed some challenging material in the past and will do so again when they kick off the 2008-09 series with Shakespeare's Measure for Measure. The Curious Savage, by contrast, has been a staple of amateur players for years (I was in the cast in high school. Weren't you?) Savage is a comedy with a message, a sort of One Half Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. Written over 50 years ago, its age shows. Some plays are antiques that gain value with time; others are like avocado green appliances. They still work, but they just don't look very good. The Curious Savage, then, is your Nana's refrigerator.

CCT's space on the Concordia Seminary Campus is big and that's important in this show, since so many are often on stage at the same time. The (mostly) early American furnishings look appropriate for the period, as do some of the costumes. There's no subtlety in the lighting, but maybe that's intentional, since the point of the play is to see oneself as one really is. And, through her interaction with a sympathetic doctor (Robert Beck), nurse (Talichia Noah) and fellow patients, Mrs. Ethel P. Savage (Jeanne Seibel) ultimately does see the light.

Mrs. Savage is improbably committed to The Cloisters, a mental health facility by her three greedy stereotypes, I mean "stepchildren," the much-married Lily Belle (Andrea Busch) ineffectual Senator Titus Savage (Nigel Cooney) and hapless Judge Samuel Savage (Jonathan Allen) whose decisions are nearly always reversed. All three are too young for their parts. Mrs. Savage meets her compatriots, flighty Fairy May (June Smailys) damaged Jeffrey (Tawaine Noah), grieving Florence (Vanessa Revard Roman) and deluded Hannibal (Mike Van Allen). And then there is Mrs. Paddy (Beth Kuppinger) whose role is small but pivotal.

Mrs. Savage's late husband left her his entire $10 million estate, and the "children" want to get their grubby hands on it, so they've put Mrs. Savage away for reasons seemingly based solely on eccentric behavior, such as her giving people money to fulfill their dreams. And what Mrs. Savage finds at The Cloisters are not lunatics but dreamers, each disappointed by life, and now "cloistered" from it.

There are too many flubbed lines and the pacing seems off. The production is mannered and stagy. These flaws help undermine what little credibility the play might retain. In the Director's Notes, Joe Wegensheide actually dismisses the plot and says he has focused on " the brightness of the characters and the honesty of their relationships." In some scenes, that happens; too much of the time, it does not.

I don't mean to "savage" The Curious Savage. The audience of 30 or so people I saw seemed to enjoy themselves. The play is safe and retains a kind of quirky humor. Mrs. Savage is one of those loveable eccentrics in the tradition of Arsenic and Old Lace and Harvey. If these are to your taste, then you'll have a good time.

For tickets, call 314-721-9228.

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