Review: ‘The Curious Savage’ at Laurel Mill Playhouse

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The Curious Savage by John Patrick, directed by Nick Cherone and produced by Maureen Rogers, is a comedy which premiered in 1950, and it provides much laughter and warmth.

The story seems simple. Mrs. Ethel Savage (Jean Berard) is a wealthy widow whose stepchildren have committed her to a small sanitorium populated by sweet but mentally ill residents. The stepchildren are trying to find the money that their father left to his eccentric wife. She is intent on keeping it from them and using the money for good works.

Terri Laurino and Jim Berard. Photo by John Cholod.

It is the interesting characters that make this comedy work, and the cast does a fine job in creating ones that are endearing and humorous. Leading this group is Jean Berard, as Mrs. Savage. She maintains her calm and poise and a wonderful sense of humor while dealing with her mean-spirited greedy stepchildren or the very odd patients in the sanitorium. Berard is totally convincing whether she is carrying a very large teddy bear or pretending to enjoy rather awful violin music. She conveys an inner warmth to those characters who deserve her kindness and prickliness to those who don’t.

The odd guests at the sanitorium are played wonderfully by a group of fine thespians. Rebecca Korn plays Fairy May, a young woman who is very manic and, despite her plainness and frumpiness, thinks she is beautiful. Korn displays this manic energy even when she is just seated and listening. Her timing during her comic moments is impeccable.

Terri Laurino portrays Mrs. Paddy, who no longer can converse and only speaks to list tirades of what she hates. Laurino still commands attention even when she is sitting with her back to the audience when she isolates herself from the group to paint. She keeps the character funny without being a stereotype.

Patrick O’Connell plays Hannibal, a former statistician who now thinks he is a violin virtuoso after picking up the instrument a year ago without any training. O’Connell conveys the stiffness that a government statistician might have and the lack of insight about his musical talent.

Reed Sigmon is Jeffrey, the young pilot shot down in the war and the only surviving member of his crew. Jeffrey is what they called “shell shocked” in those days; now we call Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. His memory is spotty, and he thinks he has a huge facial scar. Of course, he does not. Sigmon captures the vulnerability of this young man.

Florence, a woman who was unable to cope with the loss of her child, is delicately reflected in the performance of Julie Rogers. Rogers knows how to blend into the group and allow the two odder women, Fairy May and Mrs. Paddy, to add the spice. Florence never becomes pathetic or too odd, and that is perfect in this production.

Erica Ridge is a standout in the role of Miss Wilhelmina, a young nurse. In this role, Ridge develops a multi-dimensional character with a great deal of nuance.

Erica Ridge and Jean Berard. Photo by John Cholod.

The role of the evil and spoiled stepdaughter is well played by Nell Quinn-Gibney. We hate the character immediately, and Quinn-Gibney is a wonderful foil when she plays opposite Berard. Nick Cherone plays Titus and Jonathan King is Samuel, the two stepsons. Titus is a United States Senator and Samuel, a judge, both using their family wealth two get ahead. Both actors do a fine job conveying their meanness and shallowness.

Jim Berard admirably plays Dr. Emmett who runs the sanitarium.

Nick Cherone not only directs and acts in this production, but is also credited with Sound and Lighting Design; Collin Brown and Ryan Vossler were the set designers. Cherone has presented an interesting vision of this play that could have been too dusty with age. He has kept things relevant and the comic pacing is excellent. Linda Ridge, as Costume Designer, is responsible for fine period costumes. I loved the ladies’ hats.

The Curious Savage is a timeless comedy that will capture your heart. Don’t miss the opportunity to see it and enjoy this surprisingly relevant comedy.

Running Time: Two hours and 20 minutes, with an intermission.

The Curious Savage plays through June 25, 2017, at Laurel Mill Playhouse – 508 Main Street, in Laurel, MD. For tickets, call the box office at (301) 617-9906, or purchase them online.

NOTE:

The role of Samuel will be played by Ryan Vossler the last weekend of performance. The role of Lilly Belle will be played by Biloy Ambahe on June 18, 23 and 24.

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