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Whidbey Playhouse faces savages in a heartwarming comedy
With her blue hair, one-eyed teddy bear and curious remarks, Ethel Savage may appear to be the insane one. But as her family shows their true colors and has her admitted into a mental institution, insanity isn’t so clear cut in the Whidbey Playhouse production of “The Curious Savage,” opening Friday, April 6.
Ethel Savage, played by Joyce Napoletano, inherited $10 million when her husband died. She had been content to be a loving wife for years but now, she has a chance to live her own dreams and use the money to make others happy.
But her three step-children are certainly not content to let Ethel waste $10 million on people other than themselves. Titus Savage, played by Kent Junge, Samuel Savage, played by Kevin Meyer and Lily Belle Savage, played by Anjelica Sistrunk-Glasgow, will stop at nothing to get their hands on Ethel’s millions, including falling for a few of her humorous tricks.
More amusing are the quirky residents of the mental institution, the Cloisters. Fairy May, played by Shealyn Christie, is full of silly remarks, energy and the need to feel loved. Kind-hearted Hannibal, played by Sean Hall, recently took up the violin, believing himself to be deeply talented.
Mrs. Paddy, played by Suzanne Maris, hates everything in the world, from tombstones to salt to bladders, and gave up electricity for Lent, to the annoyance of her fellow residents.
While those quirks elicited many laughs from the audience, some of the residents’ issues run deeper. While kindly and caring, Florence, played by Julie McNutt, doesn’t realize her son, John Thomas, played by Alex Felger, was taken from her, just as Jeffrey, played by Bob Foster, doesn’t realize his scars from the war have caused him to retreat into himself and forget his wife.
Also adding to the humor are the Cloisters staff, Doctor Emmett, played by Fred Conley, and Miss Wilhelmina, played by Keziah Benson.
Despite the supposed insanity of the institution, Ethel Savage finds happiness with the residents and a way to help them, leaving the audience to experience the warm glow of a happy ending that says kindness hasn’t been lost in a world that often seems so savage.
“It’s been a delightful journey. I’ve really, really enjoyed working with all of these people,” said director Mary K. Hallen. “I couldn’t think of a better way to start the month of April off than presenting this to the community.”
This is the fifth play Hallen has directed at the Playhouse and she’s acted with many members of the cast.
“So it’s like party time to be with people you’re familiar with, then shaping them to be like people they’re not familiar with,” Hallen said.
Foster, playing the part of introverted patient Jeffrey, said he enjoys playing various characters.
“I like doing a complete opposite of the last character I played,” Foster said. In the recent production “Busy Body,” Foster played a loud and angry character, as opposed to his current shy character.
Junge plays one of the loud, angry characters in “The Curious Savage,” as the disreputable senator, Titus, who will do anything to rob Ethel Savage of her fortune.
“One of my favorite parts in acting is the nonspeaking parts,” Junge said. The amusing and odd actions of the patients give him plenty of chances to exhibit appalled facial expressions and irate body language.
When Hallen first heard about the play, she said she fell in love with it.
“There’s no swearing, there’s no violence and the normal stuff you see now to enthrall people,” Hallen said, adding that it’s a well-written story, “and it teaches you a gentle lesson.”
Playing Ethel Savage is Napoletano’s sixth role at the Playhouse. She also acted in California.
“It was fun. It was trying to figure out how to be a senior citizen,” Napoletano said, laughing. “It’s an amazing group of people. Everyone helps each other. It’s just such a great experience --- it’s why I keep coming back!”
Napoletano’s favorite parts about playing Ethel Savage were the snide remarks she gets to make to her step-children and the dry humor.
“I think it’s one of those plays that’ll leave you feeling good at the end. There’s such quirky characters that’ll keep you there till the end. Just come!” Napoletano said.
Hallen said she fell in love with the characters as she directed them. Fairy was one of her favorites to direct because the character skips and dances everywhere she goes, Hallen said.
“They’re going to fall in love with them all, even the Savages,” Hallen said of the audience, adding that she hopes the Savages’ actions make people uncomfortable while helping everyone see how those kind of actions come across, “which is, after all, the purpose of theater; to take a look at the human condition as it were.”
“The show is for everyone, and the message that it imparts is delightful. We all get tired of the greedy people winning in the world and here’s a place to come and see them get their just desserts,” Hallen said.
See the show
Friday, April 6-Sunday, April 22.
Thursdays through Saturdays: 7:30 p.m.
Sundays: 2:30 p.m.
Wednesday, April 18, 7:30 p.m.,
replaces Easter show, Sunday, April 8.
Tickets: $16; call 679-2237.
The Playhouse is located at 730 SE Midway Blvd., Oak Harbor.
Big Brothers Big Sisters of Island County benefit show: 7:30 p.m. Thursday, April 5.
Tickets: $25; call 279-0644.