Sunday, February 07, 2010

'Savage' Amusement

Theatre Review

Savage in Limbo
A play by John Patrick Shanley
Village Players Theatre, Oak Park, IL

I first heard of John Patrick Shanley when his play, Doubt, was earning raves on Broadway in 2005. I saw Doubt in 2007 in Chicago with the original Broadway star--Cherry Jones, now playing the U.S. President on 24--and named it My Favorite Play of the 00s. I saw and very much enjoyed the movie version of Doubt, which Shanley wrote and directed, and also saw one of his subsequent plays, Defiance (not the basis for the Daniel Craig movie of the same name), but didn't like it nearly as much as Doubt.

According to Wikipedia, Shanley has authored 23 plays and 10 movies, including Moonstruck for which he won an Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay. I haven't even seen that, but just on the basis of Doubt alone, I would be quite interested in getting to know more of his work. So when the Chicago Reader raved about a version of his 1984 play called Savage in Limbo being done at the Village Players Theater in Oak Park, and especially when it was on HotTix for just $10.00 (plus Ticketmaster fees), it well-justified a ride out to that Frank and Ernest community.

Especially after I saw it. Although clearly set in the early '80s, the one-act play about five 32-year-olds struggling with questions about their life, worth and future, did not feel dated, with the central themes still resonant today, even on a personal level. And though clearly a community-level production, the acting was excellent throughout, particularly by Chris Conley as Denise Savage (hence the play's title) and Jordan Blythe as Linda, the second most prominent role.

While not an accomplishment on the level of Doubt, this was a fascinating glimpse into the early work of a writer then in his early 30's who would write a masterpiece in his 50's. And per the regard of one of the actors I spoke to after the show about his eagerness to appear in a "Shanley play," it's possible that much of his work between Savage In Limbo and Doubt, besides Moonstruck, is also excellent. I don't yet know, but I hope to one day.

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