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By Jessica Johnson
The Highland City Council presents a hilarious ensemble cast for The Curious Savage,directed by Gabriel Spencer and produced by Jordan Long. Watch out! The lights just might go out when you least expect it. The play is set in The Cloisters, a sanitarium for people who are detached from reality. The cast is eagerly awaiting the arrival of a notorious new client Mrs. Ethel Savage. Mrs. Savage is the wife of a wealthy businessman who had recently passed away. She has three conniving stepchildren who would love to get their hands on the family fortune that is rumored to be $10 million dollars.
Florence Williams is played by Shelly Traux. Her constant companion is John Thomas, a doll. She is the mother figure of The Cloisters and often keeps everyone in line. She reminded me of a classic Mormon mother with her children. Truax plays her role with delightful fierceness. Though Florence is strident, Truax handles this role deftly, showing the soft, slightly afraid Florence in a beautiful light.
Fairy May played by Leah Bryan is a breath of fresh air! Her high-jinks kept me laughing from the moment she came onstage. You never knew when she would scream and jump on the furniture. Her “dress” in the second act was priceless and still full of pins. Very childlike and funny. You love to love her. Bryan is filled with energy and is truly darling in this role. Fairy’s screams were timed perfectly to wake anyone who had fallen asleep (though I don’t think anyone really would fall asleep in this quick, quirky show.) “It’s alive!”
Jeffrey, played by Jordan Long, is a former fighter pilot who was the lone survivor of a plane crash. A talented pianist who believes that his scarred face prevents him from performing for the masses. He reminded me of Phantom of the Opera without the mask. Long has some really funny bits, especially when he is fooling the stepkids about where the bonds are.
Miss “Willie” Wilhelmina, a nurse, is played by Nicole Allen and is the voice of reason for The Cloisters. She has a special reason for working there, but I won’t spoil it. Allen has great timing and is a sympathetic character. I won’t give her final scene away, but it is very touching.
Dr. Emmett played by Jake Allen is a kind-hearted doctor trying to rein in the chaos at The Cloisters. Jake Allen has one of the sweetest scenes when he is questioning Mrs. Paddy and plays his character with warmth and professionalism.
Hannibal played by Alex Diaz, was once a statistician and lost it when he was replaced by an electronic calculator. He has taken to playing the violin with horrible results. I give him an A for effort. His intelligence is baffling. You really have to listen to what he says to understand where he is going. My favorite scene with him is the new exercise routine. I love how the cards go flying across the set. Diaz’s scene about staying awake is great–he has great timing and brings a lot of life to Hannibal.
Mrs. Paddy played by Stephanie Tenney gets a lot of laughs with her list of things she hates: everything from rhubarb to politicians. I love her alliterated outbursts! Tenney doesn’t have many lines (you’ll see) but when she does speak it leaves you laughing. Her grin is infectious. You can see that she wants to open up. Many times pursing her lips to try to hold in her words. Ethel Savage played by Jennifer Mustoe, enters holding her constant companion, her one-eyed teddy bear. Her bright blue hair and fascinator hat are the focal point of her costume. Mustoe shows Mrs. Savage’s dejection at being forced to live at The Cloisters, but also the joy of finding new friends. Mustoe’s quirky timing made the show roll along and she is really fun to watch. The final scene is remarkably touching and I noticed several people in the audience crying. However, Mustoe has some of the funniest lines in the play, too. She got a lot of laughs. (Note: Keep your eye on the bear…)
Titus played by Stephen Miner is the oldest stepson of Mrs. Savage, an unpopular Senator who is disposed to fits of anger, mostly at his stepmother. Miner is a commanding actor, with lots of power behind his words. He looks as sweet as can be, but when he starts yelling, you can see Miner’s acting ability. What a jerk! (I mean that in a good way.) Lilly Belle, played by Jeanelle Long is the spoiled heiress who leaves husbands in her wake. She has had six of them, and has a million dollars each to show for it. Jeanelle Long is a fine actress with her nuanced facial expressions. Her freak out scene about the dartboard is hilarious. Samuel played by Tanner Spear has few lines, so has to rely on facial expressions, physical comedy and attitude to make his presence stand out and Spear does this well. His pouty, sorry for himself looks are awesome.
The set was a little sparse with mixed era pieces. It was hard to discern the time period being portrayed. Curtains were also needed for the window. The flashing of changing street light was distracting. The costumes were bright and colorful. But again, it was hard to discern the time period. Sometimes it was hard to hear the actors over the radio broadcasts.
One thing that touched me was how careful and safe it was at The Cloisters. The patients there never wanted to leave. It was funny, yes, but there was an undertone of a sad reality–some people aren’t ever willing to face life’s challenges. Such are the patients in The Curious Savage.
One overall theme of the play is Love! The love that Florence has for her child. Fairy’s love of everything. Tthe love Mrs. Savage has for her husband in fighting to keep her memorial fund. The love shared between Mrs. Savages and the Residents who become more of a family than she ever had with her stepchildren.
Director Gabriel Spencer has a lot of action and physical comedy in this show that keeps the pacing quick, fun and interesting. He has gotten the most out of this talented bunch and the cast work together as a cohesive unit.
The Curious Savage is an excellent piece and family-friendly. The theater is small, so buy your tickets online. This performance will make you laugh and reevaluate what is the most important thing in life. You will learn to love all of the cast!
You can see The Curious Savage at the Highland Community Center at 5378 West 10400 North, Highland on Fri-Sat 2/26-27 and Mon 2/29. Show starts at 8 PM. For more information see the Facebook event below. $10 adults, $8 students.