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‘The Curious Savage’ for emotional health

‘The Curious Savage’ for emotional health
‘The Curious Savage’ for emotional health
Corey Long, top left, Kathie Ponder, Deb Raichel Riall, Lorna-Mae, Christine Berry and Tim Curtsinger make up the lovable and slightly mad patients of The Cloisters.

The common room of The Cloisters asylum is filled with warmth, merriment and great ensemble playacting. One doesn’t have to be committed to join in the company of these lovable lunatics. There will, however, be a charge for admission.
Hayswood Theatre’s ‘The Curious Savage’ is the heart-warming story of a middle-aged aristocrat whose undeserved stay in an asylum does everyone good. The show opened Friday and returns to the stage this weekend with a cast that has its act together.
‘The Curious Savage’ predates the 1975 film adaptation of ‘One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,’ a Best Picture Oscar winner. But for the sake of comparison, ‘Savage’ could be thought of as a comic alternative to Ken Kesey’s sometimes dark but otherwise similar tale.
The entire play takes place in the common room of The Cloisters, a Massachusetts asylum, at a date approaching 1950. The unchanging set reflects the sheltered and unchanging lives of those in the facility’s care.
Viewers should take care not to become too comfortable lest they, like the residents, lose the fortitude with which to face the outside world. And now some introductions.
Mrs. Ethel Savage (played by talented Deb Raichel Riall) lived her life for her husband. When he died, her soul was left with nothing but unfulfilled dreams, but her financial portfolio was left with a multi-million dollar estate.
Mrs. Savage’s efforts to find herself, including a very late and unsuccessful foray into theater, didn’t cast nearly as much doubt on her sanity as her decision to sink much of the family fortune into a foundation financing the silly dreams of others.
The Savage children (Rick Pauley, Lance Ponder and Denise Wiley) determine their financial future isn’t safe in mother’s hands and use their considerable clout to have her chucked in the nuthouse. As her daughter explains, ‘I don’t know how to be poor.’
Mrs. Savage soon makes the acquaintance of four tight-knit residents of a wing of The Cloisters reserved for the only slightly mad.
Fairy May (Christine Berry) aims to please. She wants everyone to find her charming and beautiful. Is that so crazy?
And she’s a habitual liar.
Berry’s exuberant performance and crisp delivery really sell a Fairy May who is, in fact, both charming and beautiful.
(Due to a scheduling conflict, the role of Fairy May will be played by Amanda Johnson this weekend. Director Ellen Hanaver said Johnson is well-prepared and equally delightful in the role.)
Florence (Lorna-Mae) thinks a doll is actually her deceased five-year-old son. Given her habit for misplacing this plastic bundle of joy, her insanity might be a blessing. That marvelous accent is real. Lorna-Mae is an English import and convincingly mothers her cohorts as Florence.
Hannibal (Tim Curtsinger) is a retired statistician with a shy demeanor but charismatic approach. Despite his brilliance, he hasn’t realized that he has no ability whatsoever to play the violin. Curtsinger’s awkward intellectual with a big heart is a scene stealer. His voice and mannerisms are a riot.
Jeffrey (Corey Long) provides for one of this play’s few departures from comedy. He believes he has been horribly disfigured in the war, and he’s an often somber piece in this quartet.
Throwing an occasional wrench in The Cloisters’ decorum is Mrs. Paddy (Kathie Ponder).
The most overtly insane of the bunch, Mrs. Paddy makes an entrance by shutting off the lights and only speaks when she is ready to burst forth with a coarse, yet rhythmic, list of things she hates. Those tantrums seldom interrupt her painting a perpetually blank canvas.
Caregivers Dr. Emmett (Kyndra Pegler) and nurse Miss Willie (Amanda Sams) solidify the illusion that to exit stage left is to enter the administrative offices of The Cloisters.
When the time comes to check out, it’s too soon but with a clean bill of emotional health.
Tickets to all Hayswood performances are $12 for adults and $10 for seniors and children under age 12. ‘The Curious Savage’ plays again Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. Reservations can be made by calling Magdalena’s Restaurant at 738-8075.
Auditions for the musical ‘Once Upon a Mattress’ will be held Monday at 7 p.m. at Hayswood Theatre. Singing will be part of the audition. Men and women of ages 15 through 55 are needed. All roles are open.

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