Salt Lake Community College theater students will be performing “The Curious Savage” beginning Oct. 24 in the Black Box Theatre. Originally performed in 1950, director Julie Heaton has changed some gender roles to update the script.
“Role reversal happens more often now,” says Heaton. “So, I’ve tried really hard to take out some of the stereotypes.”
The resident doctor, played by Erica Hummel, is no longer a spectacle-wearing, bald male but a hip, nose-ring-wearing female. The role of the soldier with PTSD, traditionally cast as a male, will be played by Annie Smith, and the nurse taking care of the residents will be played by Greg Carver.
“My hope is, if I’ve done my job well, that people who know nothing about the show will come in and see it and have no clue that it was a period piece. People need to relate to it,” says Heaton.
The Black Box has become the living room of The Cloisters Sanatorium.
Mrs. Ethel Savage’s husband leaves a substantial amount of money to his wife upon his passing. She then pursues a philanthropic path, a move her children do not support. In the opening scene, Mrs. Savage, played by Keri Gukeisen, is being committed to the sanatorium by her money-hungry stepchildren.
Austin Grant plays Senator Titus Savage, the eldest of the three Savage children, and is as slick as any politician ought to be. The senator’s siblings—Samuel, played by Shelby Howard, and Lily Belle, played by Kristen Aoki—are also sophisticated, upstanding citizens.
However, the true nature of the Savage siblings is realized as motives are uncovered and tensions heat up in the search for Mrs. Savage’s money. The Savage siblings would like nothing more than to get their hands on the loot. This dynamic drives a wedge deeper between Mrs. Savage and her children.
The line between sanity and insanity traverses commonly held beliefs and is left for the audience to define.
Each encounter with the Savage children brings us closer to this understanding.
The sanatorium’s residents and Mrs. Savage grow fonder of each other as the weeks pass. In a disquieting scene, the residents protect Mrs. Savage when the Savage children become increasingly angry with her. The last scene between Mrs. Savage and her children sums it all up. The Savage children storm out of the sanatorium as Samuel exclaims, “We are Savages.”
This overarching theme is quite aptly noted in a line delivered by the sanatorium’s doctor, “I find it harder every day to say exactly where reason ends and madness begins.”
The SLCC players do an excellent job of delivering tension, interspersed with just the right amount of comedy.
As the actors grow into their roles and find the depth of their characters, this play promises to be an amusing night of entertainment suitable for all ages. The intimacy experienced in the Black Box is an engaging voyeuristic experience.
“The Curious Savage” will be presented in the Black Box Theatre at South City Campus. The play starts at 7:30 p.m. on Oct. 24-26, Oct. 30-Nov. 2 and Nov. 6-9. There are no matinees scheduled. The student admission ticket price is $5 and public admission ticket is $10. For ticket information, call 801-957-3322.