#158. My least favorite word is *inappropriate.* People describing other people as inappropriate makes me cringe. Sure, I get it for the big things: killing, raping, cannibalism. These seem absolute wrongs. It’s the judgment call on the other stuff that is bothersome: cleavage at the office, flip flops at a wedding, conversation at a dinner. Who gets to define societal norms? Who decides what is appropriate?
Nothing Special Productions presents the world premiere of SAVAGELAND. Henry is an artist, a poet, a scientist. In the late 19th century, he is living on an island to observe the natives. He wants to capture their lifestyles and rituals for the history museum. He draws and writes what he sees. His girlfriend, Verse, has accompanied him on this jungle expedition. She yearns to do more than watch life happen. She wants to connect. When she goes into port to get supplies, she runs into her old boyfriend, Fauntleroy. He’s got money, clean sheets and the hots for her. Fauntleroy wants Verse to leave Henry and primitive life behind. He wants her free spirit for his own. SAVAGELAND is a fascinating study on what defines a savage.
Playwright Josh Nordmark penned an in-depth look at 19th century life in new territory. At the foundation of the story is the colonization of the inhabitants. It’s a history flashback of how “civilized” folks invaded natives’ lands and declared ownership. Within this subtle truth playing out in the background, Nordmark has a fervent love triangle in the forefront. The multi-level, game-playing intrigues. His well-developed characters have their own barbaric metamorphosis. Under the compelling direction of Mikey Laird, the comedy and drama is well-paced. Laird viscerally stages the passionate movement of danger and seduction. In the intimate space, the action captivates too close-for-comfort, literally. An attack took place within two feet of me and I had to contain my own survival instinct.
Scott Danielson (Fauntleroy) reigns as this showy, pushy, rich guy. Danielson delivers his lines with haughty hilarity. Danielson carries himself with amusing airs of entitlement and delicious malice. The object of his obsession is Verse, who doesn’t know what she wants or who she is. Celeste Burns (Verse) takes on a complex role. And, Burns tackles this character’s confusion with spirited conviction. Nordmark wrote a strong, vulnerable character and Burns perfectly adapts to each scenario. Matt Drake (Henry) is the dashing hero. Or is he? A seemingly enlightened Drake is the most unsettling with ongoing, surprising choices.
I really enjoyed SAVAGELAND! It was a thought-provoking play that I continue to ponder. My only speed bump was the actual natives. White actors playing natives reminded me of old western movies. It seemed inappropriate! But who I am to decide that?
Running Time: Two hours includes an intermission
At The Den Theatre, 1333 N. Milwaukee
Written by Josh Nordmark
Directed by Mikey Laird
Fridays at 8pm
Saturdays at 3pm and 8pm
Sundays at 7pm
Thru September 2nd
Buy Tickets at www.nothingspecialproductions.com