Actors' talents are hardly hidden in '50s farce

Bowie players present `The Curious Savage'


Arundel Live

March 27, 2003|By Mary Johnson | Mary Johnson,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

The current production of John Patrick's 1950 comedy The Curious Savage by 2nd Star Productions offers a pleasant diversion from current headlines, telling the story of an eccentric widow's adult stepchildren who try to steal her inheritance.

The play centers on Ethel Savage, who inherited millions after her husband's death and goes about fulfilling her and her friends' whimsical dreams - until her greedy stepchildren try to get their hands on the money by committing her to a sanitarium.

Having converted $10 million into well-hidden bonds, Ethel adjusts to the sanitarium's environment of gentle misfits who soon become colleagues in outsmarting her stepchildren. Ethel's clever manipulation of her husband's nasty children and their desperate hoop-jumping provide most of the comedy's humor.

Director Jane B. Wingard has gathered a cast that delivers abundant laughs. Central to this production's success is the strong, multifaceted performance by 2nd Star newcomer Kathryn E. Smith. In this striking debut, Smith dominates every scene with her abundant talent and easy charm.

Another strength is the gifted trio of comedic actors Wingard has cast to play the stepchildren. Edward Kuhl is simultaneously pompous and bungling as Sen. Titus Savage, and Heather Tuckfield is deliciously loathsome in the role of the pretentious, conniving Lily Belle. Together, Kuhl and Tuckfield display superb comic timing in their over-the-top performances.

Complementing the trio with a slightly more subdued portrayal of the unctuous, bungling Judge Samuel Savage, Stan Hoch displays some masterful comic timing as well.

The inmates in Patrick's vintage comedy bear little resemblance to their psychodynamically attuned counterparts of contemporary drama. No probing conversations or startling breakthroughs are likely to occur at the sanitarium.

Hannibal is a statistician who fancies himself a violinist. Well-played by Wendell Holland, Hannibal inflicts his solo performances on sanitarium patients who seem able to enjoy his concerts.

Homely, love-starved congenital liar Fairy May is given life by Nancy Dall in a performance that delivers comic highlights. The incredibly loose-limbed Dall squirms from cushion to cushion attempting to avoid being stuck by her pinned-together dress.

More often found contributing their singing talents to musical productions, Sheri Kuznicki offers a notable performance as Nurse Wilhemina, and Doug Dawson offers a sensitive portrait of Jeffrey, a battle-scarred former concert pianist.

Susan Weber delivers a credible performance in the difficult role of near-catatonic Miss Paddy, whose conversations consist of reciting lists of her unrelated dislikes. Margaret Allman brings uncommon sensitivity to the role of Florence, a patient who touchingly administers to a doll she believes is her dead child. Veteran 2nd Star actor Marty Hayes plays the role of Dr. Emmett.

Old-fashioned, heartwarming comedies are expected to offer happy endings, and The Curious Savage more than lives up to expectations by offering two happy endings: one where greed, age, treachery and understanding are suitably rewarded, and another in the form of a surprisingly touching tableau, where inmates briefly are transformed into healthy people.

2nd Star's "The Curious Savage" runs through April 5 at the Bowie Playhouse in White Marsh Park on Route 3 just over the Anne Arundel County line. Shows are at 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and at 3 p.m. Sundays. Tickets: 301-858-7245.

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