Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: San Francisco/North Bay


Savage Wealth
Main Stage West
Review by Jeanie K. Smith | Season Schedule

Also see Jeanie's review of Cabaret


Matt Cadigan, Peter T. Downey, and Ilana Niernberger
Photo by Eric Chazankin
A slight but delightful new comedy now runs at Main Stage West, featuring three accomplished actors in a triangle of complications over a real estate deal. Well, that's the overall premise in Bob Duxbury's latest play, although the situation rapidly escalates with deceptions and lies and subterfuge on the hopeful road to riches. Despite a few plot anomalies in the play, the production succeeds in providing lots of laughs and, ultimately, some food for thought.

Meet two brothers, Gabe (Matt Cadigan) and Todd (Peter T. Downey), whose frugal father recently died while changing a lightbulb in the family Tahoe home. Todd takes charge of readying the home for sale, assigning tasks to Gabe such as finding a realtor and ditching the useless furnishings. Mostly, he's annoyed to learn that the lot across the street is going up for sale soon, which will no doubt lower the sale value of their home, when potential buyers know that the lake view will vanish.

But the brothers know who owns that lot: Childhood friend Beanie (Ilana Niernberger) inherited the property when her father died, and she's ready to harvest the investment, having recently returned home from a spiritual sojourn in India. Todd figures if he can get Beanie to hold off listing the lot until after their house is sold, it would protect their sale value.

Beanie arrives, very new-age enlightened, wandering and unrooted, a seeker without knowing exactly what she seeks. Turns out she and Todd once had a "thing," foiled by a disagreement over pee-drinking, but clearly still smoldering. Todd lays out his idea, and Beanie announces her own plan. In exchange for delaying the sale, she wants a small but valuable sculpture that was owned by Todd and Gabe's mom, to donate to a museum.

From there, complications and revelations pile up fast and furious. Sympathies shift rapidly from character to character when secrets are unveiled or betrayals revisited, and unexpected developments alter the landscape. All is managed with clever, laugh-out-loud dialogue and fast-paced scenes that deliver plot twists and surprises. When the dust begins to settle, there may be hope, after all, for new understandings and less "savagery." The play will definitely earn your laughter and perhaps set you thinking on the costs of pursuing wealth.

Duxbury has a way with comedic situations and rapid-fire sitcom style banter. The plot still has a few holes and needs some tightening in act two, but it's a worthy entry in the genre, and agreeably entertaining. The three actors are well versed in comic skills, and provide excellent character definition for the play's first outing. Niernberger manages to keep Beanie from becoming caricature, delivering surprising nuances that make her more sympathetic. Cadigan's hapless Gabe makes a believable transition in the end, shoring up his role as the moral center. Downey isn't very slick for Todd's political career, but his brash, purely pragmatic approach comes through loud and clear.

Scenic design by David Lear and E. Craven provides a suitable "cabin" home a bit down on its heels. Director John Shillington keeps up a lively pace, and mostly lands the laughs. There is no program listing for costume design, but someone deserves credit for Beanie's wonderful pseudo-Indian garb.

Amusing, engaging, and gently provoking, Savage Wealth is time well spent in the theater.

Savage Wealth, through September 16, 2018, at Main Stage West, 104 N. Main St., Sebastopol CA. Tickets $15.00-$30.00 can be purchased online at www.mainstagewest.com or by phone at 707-823-0177


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