Volume XVII, Issue 38 # September 17 - September 23, 2009

Spotlight on Theatre

Colonial Players’ The Curious Savage

photo by Colburn Images

The disheveled, phobic and non-communicative Mrs. Paddy (Niji Ramunas) is one of an assortment of suffering souls housed in a mental institution.

You’ll be charmed by these lunatics

reviewed by Jane Elkin

John Patrick’s timeless comedy The Curious Savage, which has been delighting audiences for over half a century, continues the tradition through October 3 at Colonial Players of Annapolis, with a strong cast under the direction of talented newcomer Gwen Morton.

Set in an elite mental institution, the story is for all you underdogs, dreamers and optimists. If you refuse to let cynicism infect your faith in humanity … if you believe in the promise of justice and the renewal of hope … if your mischievous side wants to shake those who don’t … then you will love this show and its star, the eccentric heiress Ethel Savage, beautifully portrayed by Joan Hamilton-Townshend.

Ethel, a child bride who always put family before self, believes it’s never too late to become what we might have been, if we can only get past old wants. Thus she charges into widowhood with a passion for the stage and philanthropy that her family finds most undignified — and inconvenient. When she squanders a small fortune on a “happiness fund” to make dreams come true, her three spoiled step-children, Sen. Titus Savage (Danny Brooks), Judge Samuel Savage (Rick Hall) and socialite/serial bride Lilly Belle Savage (Jeanne Louise) have her committed. But as the good Dr. Emmett (Lisa KB Gilbert) recognizes, it’s hard to say where reason ends and madness begins.

Ethel brings joy and a teddy bear to her new home, where she could be happy if only she were free to leave. For just as this institution’s inspiration, the McLean Hospital in Belmont, Mass., housed such luminaries as John Nash, Sylvia Plath and James Taylor, this refuge is populated with a likable assortment of suffering souls.

There is the decorous and delusional Florence (Josette Dubois) who mothers a baby doll; the mathematician Hannibal (Eric W. Alexis) who never tires of scratching out a two note serenade on the violin; the delightfully dingy dreamer and pathological eavesdropper Fairy Mae (Kirra Sharpe); the dashing war hero Jeffrey (Samuel Gillam) who suffers such PTS-induced guilt that he cannot accept even the love of his devoted nurse Wilhelmina (Ashley C. Hodak); and the disheveled, phobic and non-communicative Mrs. Paddy (Niji Ramunas).

Ethel adopts them, enriching their lives as they do hers, even as she plots her escape. Confident that there are a million things a man won’t do for five dollars, but there aren’t five things he won’t do for a million, she forces a compromise with her children by burying the remaining $10 million of her fortune. The result is bedlam.

So what will it be for poor Ethel: Liberty or a permanent vacation? I’m not telling, except to say it would be madness to miss this show.

Playing thru Oct. 3 at 8pm ThFSa; 2pm Su @ Colonial Players, Annapolis. $20 w/discounts: 410-268-7373; www.cplayers.com.