Florence cares for a doll as if it is a living child. Fairy wants to be admired for her beauty, yet she is careless about her appearance. Hannibal has convinced himself he is a fine violin player. Jeff is a bonafide concert pianist, but he is paralyzed in front of a crowd. Mrs. Paddy spends most of her day silently painting a seascape that looks like a child's work.
These five quirky characters reside at the Cloisters, a facility for those with mental disabilities. They are drawn out of their sheltered worlds when a new resident, Ethel Savage, is delivered to the Cloisters. The "deliverers" are Mrs. Savage's three adult stepchildren.
Thus the stage is set for "The Curious Savage" by John Patrick. The Tiffin University Dragons Den Players are to present the play at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 3 p.m. Sunday in Osceola Theatre in the Gillmor Student Center at TU.
The play's title evokes images of a primitive creature with unusual habits and characteristics, but the story is about a dignified, elderly woman being pressured to give up a $10 million inheritance left to her by her late husband.
Ethel Savage wants to use the money to establish a foundation to help ordinary people achieve their dreams. She has converted the money to bonds to protect it from her greedy stepchildren. Cast in those roles are Justin Grimes as Sen. Titus Savage, Tyler Bell as Judge Samuel Savage and Cari Lyczek-Roser as Lily Belle, who is known for her multiple husbands.
The three Savage children have enough wealth and power of their own, but they insist their father's money belongs to them, not Ethel. In an effort to force her to give them their due, the trio commits Ethel to a sanitarium, as the Cloisters would have been called in the 1950s.
The residents overhear the heated discussion at Ethel's arrival. Despite their impairments, these gentle souls understand she is a victim of elder abuse and serve as
a contrast to the arrogant Savages.
As Ethel meets her new neighbors, she treats them with kindness and respect. Each has been traumatized in some way. Portraying The Cloisters residents are Jamie Reed as Fairy; Paige Hanson as Florence; Aaron Stewart as Hannibal; Nicole Beard as Mrs. Paddy; and Taylor Tackett as Jeff.
The group becomes attached to Ethel as the play progresses.
Dr. Emmett (Graham Altizer) and the nurse, Miss Willie (Julie Banks,) are sympathetic and compassionate to all their patients. Ethel tells them she has hidden the money, with full knowledge of what she is doing.
The next time the stepchildren visit, Ethel plays them against one another by telling each a different hiding place for the bonds. All return infuriated at not finding the certificates, while making fools of themselves.
The residents of the Cloisters try to help Ethel by confessing to stealing the bonds themselves. Their stories add humor and confusion, but the resolution of the conflict should satisfy the audience. The ending is especially touching.
"In this 1950s piece, it's easy to recognize the disparity in compassion between the guests of the mental facility and the savages on the outside," said Mary Grennen, associate professor of English and director of theater arts at TU. "The unethical is the norm, while the civilized is atypical.
"We have attempted to honor the playwright's recommendation not to overplay the humor that these characters generate unwittingly, though we expect that their behavior will elicit an audience response that combines laughter, pity and empathy."
Tickets for "The Curious Savage" are $4 and are to be available at the door.