"The Curious Savage" lacks spark

Examiner Staff

ReAct's production of Joh Patrick's "The Curious Savage" looked very professional. The programs were well-laid-out, the set designed by Ronn Stanley II and painted by Jennifer Stanley was one of the nicest I've ever seen in the Theatre Off Jackson and the costumes had style and actually fit the performers. What lacked during the performance was energy.

"The Curious Savage" is one of those American drawing room comedies set in the 1950s. It thrives on a weird mixture of characters in a home for the mentally unstable. Patrick attempts to show how these people live in contentment by ignoring the reality of everyday life; however, the start of the play lacks the spark that distinguishes theatre from everyday life.

This is entertainment for friends. It's okay if you know some of the actors in the show. You can marvel at how good their voice sounds, a difficulty that most non-trained actors never quite overcome; or you can laugh at seeing friends jump around the stage. If you don't know anybody in the cast, good luck. The opening act of the play is dull.

None of Patrick's characters are people that are familiar to Asian Americans. It's a play mired in the '50s. The language is trite and the situations are hackneyed. It's a "well-written" play in the worse sense. The three Asian American seniors who sat behind me left after the first act. They couldn't relate to the work.

Tama Tokuda, as Ethel, is the main character and has the lines of morality in the play. Often, it is a strain to hear her, so giving up, I sat and watched without understanding. Others like Kathy Hsieh (Fairy), Chris San Nicolas (Jeffrey), Tiffany Hanako Saito (Mrs.Paddy) and Eloisa Cardona (Lily) were better at projecting their characters.

Fortunately, the play got better. The writing picked up pace and director David Hsieh's way of moving the actors and focusing attention seemed effortless. The ending was by far the best. Here, the playwright concentrates on love and saying good-bye, which communicates on a more universal level with the audience.

On the whole, "The Curious Savage" is a play that would be amusing to read during a rained-out vacation. It's the type of work that makes one feel warm and fuzzy in a plush armchair. In an audience of confused, indifferent or tired people, though, this feeling lessens.

Maybe now with the fast pace of entertainment, this type of work is unsalvageable. I remember feeling the same way when I went to see "Arsenic and Old Lace," The amusement of old-fashioned moral comedies comes from a sense of nostalgia or historical curiousity rather than the work itself. With this production, there's an added benefit that you might know someone in the cast.

"The Curious Savage" runs at the Theatre Off Jackson until July 25 from Thursday to Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 4 p.m. Directed by David Hsieh, the cast includes: Lisa Marie Nakamura, Jonathan Te Ho Park, Kathy Hsieh, Chris San Nicloas, Tiffany Hanako Saito, Eloisa Cardona, Michael A. McClure (July 22) or Eddie Mui (July 23-25), David Kobayashi, Tama Tokuda, Gigi Jhong, Audrey Fan and Preston Cheung. Sets are by Ronn Stanley II, with lights and sound by Rick Wing. Tickets are $6- $12. 364-3283.


July 21 - August 3, 1993

It's the type of work that makes one feel warm and fuzzy in a plush armchair.

© 1993 The International Examiner. Reprinted with permission by ReAct.

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