Theater debuts with a delightful 'Savage'


"Charming" is not an adjective that gets much use in contemporary theatre criticism. For charm is not a quality that is particularly cultivated by contemporary actors, directors and playwrights.

But 40 years ago - ah, things were different back then. Playwright John Patrick is best known for two friendly heart-warming comedy dramas, "The Teahouse of the August Moon," and "The Hasty Heart." But hardly less amiable is his "The Curious Savage," a 1950 study in appealing eccentricities.

ReAct, a new theater company with a mandate for nontraditional casting, is presenting a revival of "The Curious Savage" as its premiere production. The show is delightful.

Mrs. Savage, a fabulously wealthy and energetically charitable widow, is committed to an insane asylum by her greedy stepchildren. She takes a liking to the harmless, flighty inmates there. She also demonstrates that you can take it with you - despite the warnings of another eminently popular eccentricity comedy of the same era.

Having taken it with her, Mrs. Savage gives her stepchildren - the senator, the judge and the cafe society vixen - fits.

Patrick's view of psychosis is decidedly sentimental. But his fantasy makes for a pleasant tale of innocence vindicated and villainy thwarted. It would be just a little too quaint, however, if this were an historically exact revival.

But director David Hsieh has recruited an Asian American cast, which adds welcome novelty. All 13 of Hsieh's actors do good work. Most are Northwest Asian American Theatre veterans. They click as a comedy ensemble, led by Tama Tokuda, a quietly beguiling presence as the curious Mrs. Savage. Set designer Ronn Stanley II has put together a solidly 1950s parlor, a convincing representation of posh sanitarium decor.

"The Curious Savage" is an auspicious beginning for ReAct. With one thing and another, the production is indeed charming.

July 21, 1993


The Curious Savage. By John Patrick. ReAct production at the Theatre Off Jackson, 409 Seventh Ave. S. Through July 25. Tickets $6-$12, with discounts for those who bring food bank donations; 364-3283.

All 13 of David Hsieh's actors do good work.

© 1993 Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Reprinted with permission by ReAct.

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