Reviewed by Jon R. Coggins
As the weather, once again, turns chilly (Michigan eh?) the Flint Community Players continue their 2016/17 season with a show by John Patrick that will warm the cockles of your heart.
Set in The Cloisters, a home for emotionally damaged individuals, The Curious Savage is most definitely a comedy. The set is the common room of the home and all action takes place here. The director, Chip DuFord, moves his cast around the space nicely and everyone looks comfortable on stage.
As the show opens we are introduced to the residents: Florence, played by JoAnn McClanahan, is a chipper and comforting grandmotherly type with her own secret despair. McClanahan is wonderful in this role.
Hannibal, portrayed by Alex Weiss, is a calming teddy bear with a penchant for the violin. Weiss is slightly dumpy, sometimes confused, constantly friendly and has a heart of gold. As always I enjoyed this young man’s performance.
Fairy May, played by Kristen Carter, is supposed to be plain looking and unaware of her lackluster existence. Carter plays the role exquisitely with the right amount of spunk, cheeriness, and oblivion. Carter played quite successfully against her looks, as she really is not plain or unassuming.
Jeffrey is an emotional wreck, with a disfiguring scar. Played by Philip Kautz, Jeffrey may be the intellectual voice of reason in this disparate group. His commitment to the role is amazing and he easily draws the crowd’s sympathy.
The final resident, Mrs. Paddy, refuses to answer questions since her spouse told her to shut up. Played by Rose Adams, Paddy spends her days at an easel painting seascapes. Her only comments are drawn out of her by others – and then she lists a litany of dislikes. These diatribes are delightful and provide a good comedic punch every now and then throughout the script. Adams is perfect in this skin.
Then we meet “the family” – the august and wealthy Savage Clan. Three step-children, now grown, of our heroine are led by Titus, a pompous, overreacting hot-tempered politician who leveraged his family name and money to get his plum senatorial position. Played superbly by Matthew L. Morgan, Titus leads his family on the quest to get the better of their “mother”. Another child, Lily Belle, played with gusto by Marie VanHorn, is a bit of a tart, likes to get married and is quick to follow the plan to ditch her mama. VanHorn was an excellent choice for this role. Finally we meet child number three, a Boston area judge who gained his lofty position much the same way as Titus. Randy Howell gave a good performance but was hampered by age. He is very young to be in this role, and looks like an obviously young man. (This reviewer thought the character was the son of Lily Belle at first.) But any actor worth his salt will take on a role and make it work. Please, Randy, get out from behind that chair.
Finally we meet (musical fanfare) Mrs. Savage. She is ushered into the common room, accompanied by her constant companion – a giant stuffed teddy bear. Superbly played by Patty Bracey, Savage is quiet and contemplative at first, but serious undertones of a plan are being hatched right from the start. Bracey plays confused, old, tired and forlorn but morphs into a bright, wise, manipulative go-getter who seems to be in control. Having performed this play myself, I found Bracey to be a quintessentially perfect choice for the role.
The Plot: The family commits Savage to the home to keep her from spending the family fortune on what they call frivolous activities. Savage calls them her happy list. Hilarity ensues.
DuFord, a professional actor making his directorial debut, put together an amazing cast, and The Curious Savage will go down as a success!
Additional cast members include: Lauren Kondrat as Miss Wilhelmina, the home’s manager with a secret of her own and Lorrie Soini as Dr. Emmet who really has the best interests of her patients at heart.
So I encourage you to get out of the house, ignore the dreary winter weather and gather at the Cloisters for a rollicking good time.
The Curious Savage continues at the FCP playhouse on Ballenger Hwy. through March 12, 2017. For tickets and more information contact the box office at 810-441-9302 or find them online at www.flintcommunityplayers.com