Comedy and drama come to the Rose Theatre when doors open Thursday on the Roseburg High School drama department’s annual play.
“The Curious Savage” is the story of Mrs. Ethel P. Savage (Ylektra Rodriquez), an elderly widow battling her grown stepchildren for the large inheritance left by her late husband. Ethel intends to give the entire fortune away to people who wish to pursue their “foolish dreams,” but her stepchildren strongly object. In a last ditch effort to secure their financial future, they have Ethel committed to a sanatorium called The Cloisters.
There, Ethel meets her true family among the various social misfits — men and women who just cannot adjust themselves to life.
“It’s a really fun play because Mrs. Savage meets all the patience in the ward that she is in and they are all really unique and fun people,” Felix Meire said.
Meire plays one such patient by the name of Jeff, who suffers from PTSD following his time as a soldier in World War II. Portraying that trauma has been hard for Meire, because he has no similar life experience to draw from, but he wants to get it right so he can show proper respect to those that do struggle every day.
“He is a war veteran who has severe PTSD from an accident where his plane crashed and he was the only one to survive. Because of that, he has memory loss,” Meire said. “He is a very interesting character, because there are a lot of things he doesn’t know about himself. He is complex, but he is ultimately a nice, kind person.”
Each patient has their own quirk to accompany their tragic backstory. Jeff believes he has a scar on his face, which he is always trying to cover. Another patient carries a baby doll that she believes is the child she lost. Yet another has the split personality of a little girl and a cat. Each patient finds their way into Ethel’s heart.
Rodriguez said Ethel is an interesting but somewhat difficult character. Not only is the 16-year-old forced outside the box by embracing the role of a 56-year-old widow, but this is Rodriquez’s first lead role.
“It is severely terrifying. This is a play that has a very deep meaning and every line has so many layers to it. Having to play not only a lead character, which I can imagine is always terrifying, but also one that is so deep and subtle with everything that she does is very interesting. It’s interesting to be the one that has to carry the show along.”
Thankfully, Rodriguez found that she shared a sense of dry humor with her character that helped the role become more relatable.
“The hardest part is playing an older woman is is very knowledgeable of the world. She is very knowledgeable in like hearing people talk but knowing what they actually mean. She is very much aware of how the world works,” Rodriquez said. “It’s interesting having to pick apart lines and figuring out what she is seeing from them.”
At it’s core, the play compares the kindness and loyalty of psychiatric patients with the greed and hostility of so-called “normal people.” The audience must ask themselves, who are the real crazy people here: the patients who have all experience some sort of struggle that they cannot seem to cope with or the stepchildren, who will do anything to secure their fortune?
“The Curious Savage” opens at 7 p.m. Thursday, with repeat performances Friday and Saturday and Feb. 27-29. Tickets are $7 for adults, $5 for students with ID, $3 kids 12 and under; tickets can be purchased at While Away Books, 932 W. Harvard Ave., Roseburg, and at the Rose Theatre, located on the Roseburg High School campus.
On Friday, Feb. 28, all middle school students will receive a free ticket with school ID. Immediately after the performance, the cast and crew will be available to these students for a Q&A session. At least one paying adult is required per four middle school students.
“It’s just a good, quality show,” said theatre director Christina Jamerson. “You’ve got some humor, but you’ve also got tenderness and elements of seriousness and hopefulness and loss all rolled up into one. You get emotionally invested.”