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Dreamwell Theatre presents Curious Savage

BY SAMANTHA GENTRY | NOVEMBER 10, 2011 7:20 AM

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On a small wooden stage in the multipurpose room of the Unitarian Universalist Society, a variety of furniture creates the scene for actors who act as inpatients in a mental institution.

One of these patients, Ethel Savage (Linda Merritt) sits upon a white wicker chair in the cozy room when she is first admitted. She wears a florescent blue wig and carries a one-eyed teddy bear as her character projects her feelings about the "insect-infested" space she now has to call home.

Merritt, along with 10 other cast members, will d├ębut their version of Curious Savage at 7:30 p.m. Friday at the Unitarian Universalist Society, 10 S. Gilbert St. Performances will continue Saturday and Nov. 18-19. Admission is $10 for students and seniors, $13 for the general public.

The play is a part of Dreamwell's theme season of "Here I Stand," which follows the stories of characters who stand up for their beliefs.

Ethel Savage, a protagonist in the production, is perceived as insane and a recent widow who was left $50 million from her ex-husband.

She believes that the best way to spend the money is to give it to others and make their dreams come true.

Her stepchildren, however, think this is a crazy idea, so they commit her to the mental hospital until they believe she has come to her senses.

This is Merritt's first show with Dreamwell, and she is thankful to director Gerry Roe for taking a chance on her.

"This is a fabulous group of people," she said. "They are very talented, dedicated, and they are really nice people. They made me feel at home right away."

Roe is a veteran at Dreamwell, having worked with the company since 1998, so he knew exactly what he wanted when choosing the actors for Curious Savage.

"My theory is always: If you have a choice, pick smart actors," he said. "It goes partly on physical type, appropriate age, vocal quality, and there is something intangible about it that 'Yes, this person can play Mrs. Savage.' "

The performance will mark the third time Roe has directed the play. He previously worked on Curious Savage with high-school students, but he is glad that this time he could work with actors who were closer to the age of the characters.

Elisabeth Ross, who plays Fairy May in the show, previously worked under the direction of Roe in her first performance for Dreamwell.

"It's been a great experience both times," she said. "The first show was very serious, so it's nice to do a comedy and something more light-hearted."

While in rehearsal, Ross dresses in a red sparkly sweater, a long pink skirt, and a red scarf to portray her character who believes she is extremely beautiful and glamorous.

Fairy May is known to tell outrageous lies that the other inmates know not to believe. Her character brings out the comic relief of the play.

"I really love my character, and I can't wait to be her in front of an audience," Ross said. "It's a great show, and I'm proud of what we have put together."


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