On July 2, 2013, The Lansing State Journal awarded Thespies to Winifred Olds (posthumously) and Linda Granger for their performances in Steel Magnolias. Props and Set Dressing was also awarded to Mary Pomeroy and Diane Erley (posthumously) for Steel Magnolias. Laura Croff Wheaton was awarded for her portrayal of Fairy May in The Curious Savage.
By DANA CASADEI
Published in the City Pulse, May 15th, 2013
Golf farce crushes the comedy with solid writing, acting
Playwright Ken Ludwig's Review comedy "The Fox on the Fairway" ends Starlight Dinner Theatre’s season on a hilarious note.
Directed by Linda Granger, the show takes place over a weekend at the Quail golf tournament as the home team goes up against the Crouching Squirrel Golf Club. Club presidents Henry Bingham (Chris Klaver) and Dickie Bell (Ron McNeill) make a wager before the tournament, and then the real fun begins.
What follows is the pressure of winning for the recently hired Justin Hicks (Jeff Kennedy, who has an easy charm and a warm smile) and lovers' quarrels between both the newly engaged Hicks and Louise Heindbedder (Rachel Mender) and the long-married Bingham and his wife, Muriel (Diana Lett).
The duo of Henry Bingham and Pamela Peabody (Charlotte Ruppert) is the one to watch for. As individuals, Klaver and Ruppert bring their A-games, but as a couple they only heighten each other’s comedic skill set. Each also plays well to the script’s more extravagant moments, such as when they both get drunk and then, later, when another character experiences "hysterical blindness." Shining moments, both.
Ludwig's script obviously has moments created for large physical comedy and huge exaggeration, but this production doesn't play it as loudly, or boldly, as it could have been.
Paul Sisson's fantastic set takes viewers inside the country club. The show calls for a lot of entrances and dramatic leavings, so having four ways for the actors to leave quickly was a smart choice.
by Dana Casadei
Published in Lansing Online News
In the middle of Act Two, Florence (Laura Potter) looks at her fellow cast mates and tells them that dents give antiques character. Much like antiques the characters in John Patrick’s “The Curious Savage” all have dents of their own, with the cast proving the more dents the more fun to watch.
The two-hour show, directed by Harlow Claggett, takes viewers into the world of “The Cloisters,” which is basically a loony bin in Massachusetts. Sorry there isn’t a nice way to say “crazy home.” While the five residents we are introduced to are in their “final stages of treatment,” Mrs. Ethel Savage (Eve Davidson) is just beginning hers, all thanks to her greedy stepchildren.
After her husband’s death, where she gained a large amount of money, she had hopes of starting a foundation in his honor, and getting to live out some of her dreams. Her stepchildren didn’t take lightly to that, which is how she ends up at a “sanitarium.” Beat you wish your kids were this awesome.
Ethel’s stepchildren are a stark contrast to her new friends and fellow residents. There’s Florence, Jeffrey (Greg Pratt), Mrs. Paddy (Jan Ross), Hannibal (Dave Sincox in an extremely warm and comforting role) and my favorite, Fairy May (Laura Croff Wheaton), but more on her in a minute. As eccentric as these five are they help Ethel in their own unique ways, and she does the same for this group of misfits. What plays out is a show that has a few surprising twist and turns, and one that earned a standing ovation.
Davidson plays Ethel with likeability, and more depth, than expected. She’s sassy and witty, but has a heart of gold, especially in regard to her newest housemates. Davidson is simply a treat to watch.
Now on to Wheaton. Within the first five minutes it’s made obvious why she was cast as Fairy May. She’s by far the most eccentric of the group, and that’s a compliment in every sense of the term. Wheaton has the movements of an antsy toddler, with her arms constantly moving around as she speaks and most of her stories are told with the excitement of a child. Giving credit to Patrick’s script Fairy May also gets some of the best zingers of the evening, all delivered by Wheaton with as much gusto and amusement as the last. A few personal favorites, “Ahhhhh, a queen of spades. Someone’s going to dieeeee,” and “This is so exciting. I wish we could open a door and have a body fail out.”
Linda Granger and Nancy Sisson’s costumes are a phenomenal touch, as is Paul Sisson’s set design. Both do great things for the show and the characters, with all the little details being an added bonus.
A curiosity, indeed, is Ethel Savage, a wealthy widow who wants to donate her late husband’s millions to charity rather than to her three cranky, selfish, ne’er-dowell adult stepchildren. “The Curious Savage” is a perfect fit for the elder madams of the Red Hat Society and the rest of the senior ilk that is Starlight Theatre’s target audience.
First performed in 1950, John Patrick’s play takes place at The Cloisters, a bucolic sanitarium in the country. It is a home where traumatized, emotionally ill adults from families of means are sent to recover in the midst of the healing powers of nature. Ethel is anything but insane, placed there as punishment for hiding the family fortune.
This play draws upon the history of exaggerative vaudevillian humor to establish itself early on as a comic farce.
Director Harlow Claggett has assembled a cast whose distinctive acting styles add up an entourage of endearing nutcase bozos. This is a seasoned ensemble cast, with veteran Eve Davidson bringing gravitas as Ethel in the calm center of the vortex.
The rest of the patients, however, are a baffled and bewildered mix of merry maniacs, a babbling band of batty bumpkins, led by Fairy May (Laura Croff Wheaton), an ingénue with conversational non sequitur gambits. Wheaton flits and frets her way across stage, evoking many laughs.
She is joined in comic intensity by a disheveled Jan Ross as the perpetually hostile Mrs. Paddy, who compiles and recites ever-expanding lists of all that she hates. Both of these actors are at the top of their games and steal the stage at times.
The three other residents, in considerably more minor roles, provide these delightful divas with straight lines galore.
Laura Potter plays Florence, who carries around a doll version of a lost 5-year-old and is poignantly touching. Dave Sincox, meanwhile, portrays Hannibal, a nerdy, delusional statistician, and Greg Pratt plays Jeffrey, whose imaginary facial scars leave him unable to return to his previous brilliance as a concert pianist.
Ethel’s stepchildren also contribute much buffoonery. Colleen Patton leads the pack in this trio, displaying a snooty serious- ness that makes her character, Lilly Belle, all the funnier. Adam Bright is the not-very-bright U.S. senator named Titus, and his brother Samuel is a Freudian-looking, stuffy old judge. Rounding out the cast are Dan Pappas as the doctor-in-residence and Sarah Hauck as his most important nurse assistant, both of whom are bit loony-tunes themselves.
This play is not a darkly deep existential drama that you will be discussing all the way home, and yet the idea of someone wealthy giving away money to charity for sheer delight is curiously attractive.
“The Curious Savage”
Starlight Dinner Theatre Through March 16 Waverly East Intermediate School
3131 W. Michigan Ave. Lansing Fridays and Saturdays: dinner 6:30 p.m., show 7:30 p.m.
Dinner & show: $33 general/$28 seniors, students/$20 children Show only: $15 general/ $10 children (517) 243-6040 starlightdinnertheatre.com