Plots, plans and craziness in 'Curious Savage'

Friday, October 15, 2004

"The Curious Savage," the latest theatrical production from Jackson High School, is a funny and heartwarming tale brought to life by a talented cast and the strong direction of Bob Clubbs.

Written by John Patrick, "The Curious Savage" maintains its appeal 54 years after it was first performed.

It tells the story of a wealthy widow, Ethel Savage, who is placed in a mental institution by her spoiled stepchildren when she decides she wants to use her money to help others achieve their dreams.

Ethel Savage is played by Leslie Shain, who makes you forget that she is portraying a woman more than twice her age. Shain's Ethel is a clever and caring woman the audience can really root for.

Playing Mrs. Savage's three children are Tyler Tankersley as Titus, a hated senator, Joe Floyd as Samuel, a buffoonish judge, and Lacey Hayes as Lilly Belle, a multimarried diva. All the actors bring a realness to their roles that makes it easy to see why Mrs. Savage would want to see them all humiliated. The audience will, too.

Tankersley is particularly effective as the blowhard senator who is clearly the leader among the stepchildren. He has quite a stage presence with his strong vocal delivery and effective (but not overblown) mannerisms.

On the other side of the spectrum from the stepchildren are the patients at the institution, a lovable bunch of eccentrics who form a family of their own that is much stronger than that of the Savages.

There is Florence, played by Danielle Hoffman, who seems perfectly normal at first until we discover she believes a doll is her real child; Hannibal (Steven Nolkemper), a kind man who thinks he can play the violin even though he can't; Fairy May (Elysia Rouggly), a hyper woman-child who needs to be told she is loved on a daily basis; Jeffrey (Matt Morris), a World War II veteran who holds his hand to his face at all times to hide a scar that is not there; and Mrs. Paddy (Caitlin Burress), who paints seascapes and does not speak unless to list the things she hates.

While the idea of lovable eccentrics can easily be a cliched device, in "The Curious Savage," the mental patients are all great characters that usually deliver the funniest and most insightful lines.

They also make you think about who should be considered "sane" in the world.

At one point, Mrs. Savage tells the institution's nurse, Miss Wilhelmina, played by Stacey Brooks, "If people would try to walk on the edge of the carpet once in a while it would save from it wearing out in the middle."

Words that everyone should consider.

Also in "The Noble Savage" is Zack Ruesler, who plays Dr. Emmett.

Want to go?

What: Jackson High School's production of "The Curious Savage"

When: 7 p.m. today and Saturday

Where: Jackson High School auditorium

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