"THE CURIOUS SAVAGE," Hale Centre Theatre, through July 19 (984-9000); running time: 2 hours, 30 minutes (one intermission)

WEST VALLEY CITY — If you're unfamiliar with "The Curious Savage," the latest production at Hale Centre Theatre, now is the time to become acquainted — it's delightful. Don't let the word "savage" lead you to believe this is a dark tale because nothing could be further from the truth.

It's about Ethel P. Savage — a widow whose husband leaves her with a large sum of money. Her stepchildren, unhappy with how she is spending their money, have her committed in order to gain control over the inheritance.

I refuse to say any more because the journey of discovery is part of the joy. This is a warm, endearing, even enlightening look at humanity, friends, family and how we all interact.

Written in 1950 by Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award winner John Patrick, "Savage" is filled with so many quotable lines it's almost impossible to keep up. Just as one line begins to resonate, another comes floating along.

Though pretty strong all the way around, the cast, under the direction of John Adams, certainly has some standout performances.

How nice to see Mary Parker Williams in a role that lets her realize her true comedic brilliance. As Fairy May, an exuberant guest at The Cloisters, the asylum where Mrs. Savage finds herself, Williams is engaging. Not only is her physical comedy natural, unaffected and totally convincing, but she never upstages the other dialogue — which is a common mistake with this role.

Her warmth and charm, coupled with a perfect sense of timing, explain why I heard many commenting, "She's good! She's so good!" and she is. Hale was wise to single cast her.

Tamara Adams, a regular at Hale, is also a highlight as Ethel P. Savage (Monday-Wednesday-Friday cast). Played with a nice mix of kindness and smarts, compassion and concern, she is endearing and instantly likable.

Leslie Warwood's costumes are gorgeous, as is Kacey Udy's set. Spencer Brown's lighting casts a lovely glow. The microphones were disappointing on Monday night as they cut out often. Not to mention, someone seemed asleep at the sound board and was regularly late with cues.

It's a great show. Too bad I saw it with one of the rudest audiences I have ever witnessed. I bring this up hopefully as an education and a caution. Please be polite. In a show about humanity and how we all treat each other, I found it ironic that so many in the house didn't seem to care.

Sensitivity rating: Minor sexual references toward the daughter, who has been married six times. Young kids would never notice.


E-mail: ehansen@desnews.com