Repertory Actors Workshop (ReAct) is a new theatre company that uses a "nontraditional" casting approach to traditional repertoire. It's a laudible aim, but there's no getting around the fact that in their company premiere, they've taken a rather creaky play and given it a rather creaky performance.
John Patrick's 1950 seriocomedy "The Curious Savage" concerns a wealthy widow, Mrs. Savage, whose stepchildren commit her when she wants to spend her millions on a "happiness fund" that gives people money for entirely whimsical reasons. It's one of those stories that finds greater sanity inside the confines of a psychiatric ward than in the outside world, and in the 43 years since Patrick penned it, the conceit has worn out its welcome. While the play offers some quick repartee and screwball mayhem, it uses broad strokes to paint an unpersuasive picture.
Wednesday night's performance, with its largely Asian cast, had its moments. But it could use a more slaphappy verve to carry it off. Some actors didn't project clearly enough. Others needed to relax in their roles more. And director David Hsieh needs to pick up the pace.
Best to concentrate on the production's strong points: Kathy Hsieh as Fairy May, a compulsive liar with a need to be loved, is winningly frantically gauche. Jonathan Te Ho Park as an inept would-be violinist is engagingly inept. Tiffany Hanako Saito, a gifted physical actress, makes Mrs. Paddy, a near-catatonic woman whose only conversation is her list of hates, surprisingly eloquent. And Eloisa Cardona redeems a poorly written part, as Mrs. Savage's greedy, much-divorced step-daughter, with a vulgar energy. To the rest of the cast and crew: Try it tighter, feistier and louder.
(ReAct, Theatre Off Jackson, 409 Seventh Ave. S., through July 25. $6-$12. 364-3283.)