THE CURIOUS SAVAGE; written by John Patrick; directed by Laurie Harrop-Purser; Hale Center Theater Orem; now through Sept. 21; tickets at haletheater.org and 801-226-8600; running time, 2 hours, one intermission
OREM — It's just plain fun sometimes to see the bad guys get theirs.
In "The Curious Savage," the wicked stepchildren do not get away with trying to force their widowed stepmother to turn over what they see as their inheritance.
They try hard. They threaten. They cajole and one even bites.
Spoiler alert: Ethel P. Savage sees them coming and with the help of a few troubled souls at the institution where she's temporarily committed, she outwits them all.
She's calmly adopted by a girl who sees herself as a beautiful princess, a mostly mute artist who paints like a child but thinks she produces masterpieces, a man who mistakenly believes his face is ruined, a violinist who can't play well and a woman who refuses to admit her child has died.
The characters are multi-layered. (In fact, the author of this story insisted the clients in the institution not be insulted by trivializing their plights.)
Heidi Smith Anderson does a funny interpretation of Fairy May, a slightly deluded but good-hearted young woman. Daniel Hess is the blustery Hannibal who really can't make beautiful music, but he has a big heart.
Karen Baird successfully carries the load for this story, which is good as the Savage character either makes or breaks it. She's good at playing the sage and delivers her lines with perfect timing and tone.
And, in this show, there are plenty of great one-liners. "It's a madhouse!"
Her stepchildren, particularly Alexis Boss as Lily Belle Savage and Reese Phillip Purser as Titus, are cold, mean-spirited and focused on getting their way, deliciously so.
When Savage deftly sidesteps them again and again, it's entertaining to watch.
They almost succeed at getting their $10 million, so when the troupe of clients comes in like the cavalry, it's blessedly welcome.
So is the intervention of someone unexpected.
The story and the show are classic.
There were a couple of flubs on opening night, and it's a bit talky during the first half, but overall, it's a watchable, tender piece of theater.
Enjoy it while it lasts.
If you go:
What: "The Curious Savage"
Where: Hale Center Theater Orem, 225 W. 400 North
When: 7:30 p.m., Monday-Saturday
Cost: $16 to $20
Sharon Haddock is a professional writer with more than 35 years experience, 17 at the Deseret News. Her personal blog is at sharonhaddock.blogspot.com.
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