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The Curious Savage - Saint John Paul the Great Catholic High School - Dumfries, Virginia - December 3, 2016

Anna Merrill

Teens and Theater

Is anybody truly sane, or are we all living within our own delusions? This is the question at the center of “The Curious Savage”, a quick-witted comedy that also presents probing existential dilemmas.


The cast and crew of Saint John Paul the Great Catholic High School entranced their audience this past weekend with their confidence, charm, and skill in this production. Written by American playwright John Patrick, “The Curious Savage” was written in the 1950s and set in its contemporary era.


The three-act play follows the predicament of the Savages, a wealthy family that is being torn apart by their own prosperity. Ethel Savage (Mary Wright), has recently lost her husband, who left behind a staggering inheritance of $10 million. Her greedy stepchildren wrongfully commit her to a mental institution called The Cloisters so that they can keep the prosperity to themselves. Before they can claim the inheritance, Ethel hides the money to protect it from their grasping hands. However, once Ethel meets her new neighbors, she begins to wonder whether her own family is any saner than the supposed misfits.


Comedic timing is a must for the devious Ethel Savage, and Mary Wright’s performance was both entertaining and impressive. Wright used a wide variety of amusing facial expressions and tones of voice, making her character both exaggerated and believable. Not only did she elicit some uproarious laughs from the audience, she also made Mrs. Savage a surprisingly sympathetic character.


Another standout was Sophia Barrick, who played the manic but lovable Fairy May. Barrick captured both the innocence and anxiety of her character, which was conveyed in her childlike tone and excited hand gestures. Mairin McNulty was an audience favorite, playing the ornery Mrs. Paddy. Her hunched-over posture and sullen facial expressions always got a good laugh out of the crowd.


The actors’ performances were beautifully accentuated by the set and props, which helped cement the atmosphere even further. The play is set exclusively inside the living room of The Cloisters, which was brought to life with warm yellow walls and vibrant furniture. The details of the set, such as the old wooden piano in the corner, the colorful rug and the beat-up Parcheesi board on the bookshelf, created an environment that felt cozy but also clinical.


In a play that exaggerates human attributes to the extreme, it would have been all too easy for the actors to give one-dimensional performances, relying on the witty writing and absurd nature of the characters. However, they exhibited impressive emotional sensitivity and understanding to the nature of the play, performing it exactly how John Patrick intended- “with warmth and dignity”.


Overall, Saint John Paul The Great Catholic High School executed a highly impressive performance. “The Curious Savage” was not only quick-witted and funny, but surprisingly uplifting. The cast did not just perform; they took the audience on a thought-provoking journey. When the lights came back up, perhaps it was not just Mrs. Savage who had changed- it was as if the audience changed, too.

Kaylee Guthrie

Teens and Theater

When people think of sanatoriums for the mentally impaired, quirky light-hearted comedy is probably not the first thing that comes to mind. Yet, that is the tone of “The Curious Savage,” a play splendidly performed by St. John Paul the Great Catholic High School.


In this play, written and set in the 1950s by John Patrick, eccentric widow Ethel Savage inherits ten million dollars from her late husband. However, her greedy stepchildren commit Ethel Savage to the Cloisters sanatorium to gain that money for themselves, not knowing that Mrs. Savage has already hidden the money away.


St. John Paul cleverly balanced humor and heart, drawing the audience into the living room of the Cloisters and into the lives of the various kind but kooky characters who live there. The audience was captivated by the role each character had to play, and the humor was received well, with much laughter resounding in the theater.


Mary Wright shined as the blue-haired Mrs. Savage, and her wide range of expressions while delivering witty jabs kept the audience laughing. Her hi-jinks and mischievousness were endearing, and the actress filled the role well.


Some of the supporting actors went a bit over-the-top in their exaggerated expressions, but overall, they brought the audience into the story. Sophia Barrick’s quirky mannerisms as Fairy May captured her character’s innocence and vanity, and Mairin McNulty vividly portrayed Mrs. Paddy’s silent crankiness with nothing more than an eye roll and a scowl. Lily Belle Savage, the Savage stepdaughter played by Jasmine Pierce, showed off her malicious nastiness with haughty sneers and raised eyebrows.


At a few points, it was hard to understand what some of the players were saying, but generally, the actors enunciated clearly and projected well. The brightly colored dresses, orange couch and broken radio each set the tone and setting appropriate for the 50s. Even small details, such as the sound of an antique car horn, solidified the sense of the period.


Every character in the Cloister is friendly and warm to Mrs. Savage, if not totally rational.  But the Savage stepchildren quickly spiral into frantic fervor as they attempt to take their stepmother’s vast wealth. By the end, the audience and Mrs. Savage are left to consider who is truly insane, the peculiar occupants of the Cloisters or the desperate conniving Savage stepchildren.


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