Who is your family? Is it those bound by blood and marriage or love and an embroidered napkin?
The Lyceum Theatre welcomes John Stanley’s “The Curious Savage” to the stage, a play about a wealthy widow assigned to a facility for long-term mental illnesses. Placed there by her greedy stepchildren, she is slightly unnerved by the habits of her new housemates, but she soon finds herself growing attached to the wayward patients there.
This production is unusual for Vanguard’s typical season, running only two nights and completely student led. Junior Veronica Holley both stage managed and directed the show. She described the experience in post-show Q and A as “a little daunting,” but more than satisfactory to see it come all together.
Ethel P. Savage, the very sane heroine, is an older woman full of wisdom. Sophomore Rodneisha Cannon has no issue capturing the snarky yet endearing manner of her character. The maturity and grace of Mrs. Savage is not lost on Cannon, despite her youth.
The Savages, Samantha and Lily Belle, played by senior Tiffany Rollerson and junior Taylor Bertone respectively, were a combination of the three step-children in the original play. The two brought life to the characters in an over-the-top manner. However, the dramatic pair require extravagant renditions to establish the stark contrast with the Cloisters, the patients residing in the same wing as Mrs. Savage. Bertone’s dramatic rendition of Lily Belle is met in stark contrast with Rollerson’s no-nonsense Sam, contriving uncomfortable situations occasionally but overall hilarious.
The remainder of the cast portrayed the patients and staff for the Cloisters. Each actor brought another piece of humor and warmth to the stage, contrasting starkly with the cold, calculating nature of the Savage sisters. Freshman Cam Burchard embodied the seemingly strict but caring Dr. Emmett, and his helpful counterpart, Mrs. Willie, a former army nurse, was played by Eileen Leyva.
“The Curious Savage” as a whole was an interesting work that brought out the unique talents of the cast. However, the script itself failed to provide major character developments. Certain details about the Cloisters lives and ailments came too slowly or not at all.
Though some of the illnesses make perfect sense, others are left unclear as to exactly why they have found themselves in the facility. As is the case with Hannibal, portrayed by freshman Felipe Leyva, there is little known about why he is even there, besides the fact that he thinks himself a violinist. He goes along with the other patients’ strange habits, but still possesses the intelligence of his past and holds his own in conversations with Mrs. Savage.
Additionally, the character of Fairy, portrayed by sophomore Alondra Lucatero, is a fanciful young girl who often acts as a young child, despite being in her early 20s. Her character description is a plain girl who finds herself absolutely beautiful, but Stanley’s dialogue fails to conjure this same image. Lucatero does create a character full of whimsy, white lies, and life, but it is through her theatrical nature and vibrant costumes that any character backstory is given.
However, in the cases of Jeffery (played by guest to the Vanguard stage, Cody Hanify) Mrs. Paddy (brought to life by Alison Basset) and Florence (portrayed by Lilia Porter) all have clear and well established illnesses. Their dialogue brings their various conditions to life with strong character choices adding to each storyline.
Though there are rough moments throughout, the production is impressive for a student organized piece. The acting, costumes, and directing reflect strong and powerful decisions that compensate for the somewhat shallow plot. Overall, this show will provide a captivating mid-week treat.
There’s no reason to leave your curiosity unsatisfied. Tonight, there will be one last free performance of “The Curious Savage” in the Lyceum Theatre at 7:30.