THEATRE REVIEW: THE CURIOUS SAVAGE
By Jain Lemos
Ah, the drama of blended families. When they find themselves facing asset allocation, personalities often supersede principals. Such is the case in “The Curious Savage,” a two-act play originally penned by John Patrick in 1950, now running at The Adobe Theater. The full length comedy is an actor’s delight, featuring significant roles for six women and five men.
Micah Linford says it’s a play he’s wanted to direct since first discovering it nearly 20 years ago. “I didn’t change a word,” he reveals, adding that he is amazed how contemporary the dialogue reads 66 years since opening on Broadway. Though not a sensation at the time, the story holds up surprisingly well through the decades and provides audiences with multi-dimensional characters to love and loathe.
The premise is simple enough: Selfish step-children clamor to get their mitts on a ten million dollar birthright their late father leaves to his widow, Mrs. Ethel P. Savage. Her plan for the money is to establish a Happiness Fund, where even the most frivolous dreams of strangers can be fulfilled. In desperation, the siblings plop their step mom into The Cloisters, a progressive sanatorium (more assisted living than nuthouse) with hopes of scaring her into handing over their legacy—which is cash she’s converted into hidden bearer bonds.
Film and television actor Doris Hargrave makes her Albuquerque stage debut as Mrs. Savage in a fine local introduction to her outstanding theater talents. Her cadence is peppered with fierce independence, revealing her acute sense of delivering satisfying entertainment. When Mrs. Savage is introduced to her housemates at The Cloisters, the widow is allowed to be free without judgment and Hargrave morphs into a carefree spirit while maintaining a logical outlook. There’s nothing crazy about her at all.
The residents give wonderful performances, too. Eve Grace Gronert as the emotionally needy Fairy May is effortlessly annoying and charming, showing a knack for comedic roles, even though her forte is classical singing. Taking on math nerd Hannibal is stage veteran Clifton Chadwick, who is so comfortable and congenial in the part he seems like an eccentric yet beloved family member. Without saying much, Meta Williams as the hushed-up Mrs. Paddy stakes out her presence with hidden gestures bringing extra depth to the atmosphere.
Yannig Moring’s touching delivery to the PTSD-suffering Jeff is notable, especially in light of Moring’s personal tie-in to the situation: his aunt spent her last years struggling with dementia in an asylum. Rounding out the patients is UNM education major Rachel Thompson who is a natural as Florence, the out-of-reality mother who dotes over the eclectic brood. Overseeing the madness is Dr. Emmett, played by George Williams. He comes across with such authority and ease you’d almost like to make an appointment with him. Fabianna Borghese as Nurse Miss Willie is an instant favorite who works her lines with great respect and flair.
Last but not least are the evil Savage kids: Senator Titus is portrayed with self-possession by the accomplished Ed Chavez; Tristana Gonzalez commands the imposing stature of the self-obsessed Lily Belle; and Nicolas Ganjei immerses himself into the self-doubting Judge Samuel.
The Curious Savage is showing now at the Adobe Theater now until August 7th. Tickets are $17 general and $15 for seniors and students. For more information, click here.