If you’re a fan of theater in the Capital Region, you know May is a busy month – it’s the end of most theaters’ seasons, and every group is putting on their final show. It’s not easy to see everything that’s being staged in a month (and still get to work and get some sleep) so please don’t take it lightly when I tell you that you need to get to Schenectady Civic before May 14 and see “The Curious Savage,” directed by Jennifer Van Iderstyne, before it closes.
Mrs. Savage (Pat Brady), a wealthy widow, has been committed to a sanitorium by her greedy stepchildren because she’s spending what they think of as their inheritance and acting in a manner they deem inappropriate (which really means she’s having fun for the first time in her life.) There she meets the inhabitants – men and women who just can’t fit into life, for one reason or another, and strikes up a bond with them. When her stepchildren return, realizing that before they shipped her off, she’d sold off most of the family’s property and has hidden over ten million dollars in bonds somewhere, her new friends and the staff of the sanitorium become her unlikely allies.
It’s not often I can give a review that’s an unequivocal rave. From the acting to the set to the direction to the costumes to the lighting and sound, everything worked perfectly in this production. Brady is a local treasure, and she shines in this role, which is a very well-written, well-rounded female lead (and was written in the ‘50s, as well – why this show hasn’t been produced more is a mystery to me.) She plays every emotion with such believability and such heart – sometimes an actress isn’t acting, but is actually inhabiting the character onstage, and Brady absolutely does that here.
The residents of the asylum were such a great group to watch that they lit up the stage every time they entered. Laural Hayes brought the whole audience to gales of laughter as the selectively mute Mrs. Paddy; Autumn Routt’s Fairy Mae was adorable and heartbreaking; David Quinones’ physicality as Hannibal was hilarious. The Savage family (David E. Rook, Joseph Fava and Jean T. Carney) were an ensemble unto themselves; their spoiled rich kids, all grown up, were delightful.
Van Iderstyne’s direction was understated, but in the best possible way; she knew when to let this talented group play and when to take a firm hand. The final scene is brilliant – she’s the kind of director who knows when to go for the heartstrings without pandering.
I am a theatergoer who almost always prefers contemporary work and often finds older plays dated; this show stands the test of time, showing that, if written well, human emotions have no expiration date. I congratulate everyone involved on a job well done – they made this seem effortless, and the smiles (and tears) on the faces of patrons as they left paid tribute to that.
“The Curious Savage”, Schenectady Civic Players, 12 South Church Street, Schenectady, through May 14, $20, Run time: 2 hour, 10 minutes with a 15-minute intermission, (518) 382-2081, http://home.civicplayers.org,