The cast of “The Curious Savage” performs during a final scene in the show: (back row) Jazz Richardson (Paddy), Oliver Bacus (Jeffrey), Madison Lobos (Miss Wilhelmina), Brandon Bosomworth (Dr. Emmett), Benjamin Ayers (Hannibal), Chris Barnes (Samuel Savage) and Nick Thompson (Titus Savage); (front row) Sydney Martin (Fairy May), Radeana Taylor (Lily Belle), Claire Bollinger (Mrs. Ethel Savage) and Amy Huebner (Florence).
ROXANA — At first, walking onto the set of Roxana High School’s production of “The Curious Savage” doesn’t seem like walking into a home for the mentally unstable.
But the woman nervously rocking a baby doll (which the character thinks is her 5-year-old child, as revealed by co-director Debbie Bacus) and shouts of “the queen of spades — somebody’s going to die!” illustrated the setting quite well.
In this show, an older woman who married young and spent her whole youth devoted to her husband decides to spend his inheritance reliving her youth.
“She wants to do all she’s never done before,” Bacus says.
Her stepchildren, greedy and afraid of losing money, place her in the home hoping to frighten her out of her decision. She develops a close relationship with the guests of the home.
“She loves them, helps them — she brings out the good in the guests; they give her faith in humanity,” Bacus says.
Bacus says she fell in love with the show this summer while deciding on options for the school’s fall play. She especially connected with the characters.
“They’re beautiful, sweet, and deep — it’s good experience for the students,” Bacus says.
“The Curious Savage” is not a comedy, though it seems to be at first. The playwright, John Patrick, strictly advises actors in an author’s forward not to overemphasize their characters, but to portray them with warmth and dignity, Bacus says. Sophomore Benjamin Ayers, who plays a guest named Hannibal, said “it was a challenge learning to set the mood without exaggeration.” Bacus and her husband and co-director, Mark, worked closely with the cast to make sure the characters’ true depth came through in the production.
“We don’t know what put them here (in the home) — so they made their own back stories. It was really moving,” Bacus says.
The cast members agree the creation of stories for characters give the show incredible depth.
“It helped us know our characters more,” says Amy Huebner, whose character, Florence, is a “guest” of the home. Two characters who share a story woven deep into the show (and who, for the sake of surprise, will remain unnamed) added that they spent hours developing their story.
Senior Radeana Taylor, who plays Lily Belle, part of Mrs. Savage’s family, says the show has affected everyone involved.
“It isn’t even a play to us anymore — all of us have taken something that speaks to us. We’ve learned a lot of love,” she says.
Claire Bollinger, a senior who plays Mrs. Savage, says it has influenced her view on mental illness.
“I’ve definitely rethought my definition of ‘crazy’ — these people are 10 times nicer than anyone you’ll ever meet,” Bollinger says.
Sophomore Jazz Richardson, who plays a guest named Paddy, says the production “shows how much you can learn from the smallest thing.”
More lessons learned from the cast are patience from sophomore Hannah Gavin, who plays a nurse at the home; and hope from junior Madison Lobos, whose character is waiting on her husband to recover.
Bacus says the audience will feel this symbolism and learn incredible lessons from the story.
“It’s about people who are struggling, the people who love them, and the people who don’t get it,” Bacus says. “There will be laughs, there will be tears, and that’s what makes a great show.”
Taylor says the overarching theme will be immensely rewarding for the audience.
“Love conquers all — and that’s exactly what the story’s about.”
“The Curious Savage” takes the stage at 7 p.m. Friday, Nov. 21, and Saturday, Nov. 22; and 2 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 23, at Roxana High School, 401 N. Chaffer Ave., Roxana. For information, call the school at (618) 254-7553.