This year’s fall production “Savage in Limbo” documents the hopes and dreams of a group of social outcasts, a group of young and restless regulars who frequent a Bronx dive bar, hoping to distract themselves from their own dissatisfaction and disappointment. DU’s theater department has created an arresting and brilliantly inventive production of the play, slowly building the audience’s relationship with the character’s until one feels as though they are themselves on stage, feeling the aching heart of Denise Savage. The actors masterfully move through the script as it swings from comedy to near tragedy, balancing wit with raw emotion as the plot develops, drawing the audiences further into the complexities of its characters.
The crew of student actors put on a performance that is both believable and fascinatingly real. The authenticity of the script has been done justice by the department, and the characters somehow manage to plunder through their various affairs with grace. The entire play occurs within a drab, run-down neighborhood bar where a group of 32 year-olds try to find connections, friends, advice and moreover seek relief from the disappointments and tedium of the working world. But neither the setting, nor the characters, grow banal as the plot progresses. A large feat for a student play, and a testament to the high standards of the DU Theater Department.
A lesser known play, “Savage in Limbo” was originally written by American playwright John Patrick Shanley in 1984, and it was produced by various theater companies until 1987. It was most recently produced in 2011 by The Drilling Company Theatre, New York City.
The first to arrive on stage is central figure Denise Savage (Tamarra Nelson), a lush who’s stretched thin and loudly proclaims that she is a thirty-two year old virgin. Savage begs for advice from the bartender Murk (Kevin Douglas) about how to snag a man. Nelson is convincing and her delivery always compelling. Due to her performance, the audience wants Savage to succeed despite her character’s shortcomings, boozy immorality and total lack of judgement.
Then enters Linda Rotunda (Meagan Traver), who is growingly anxious. Her current boyfriend, Tony Aronica (Daniel Crumrine) seems distant and uninterested in their relationship. Linda is the mother of a few children already, which has lead to both financial difficulty and trouble in her romantic life. Soon after she expresses her worry, her boyfriend Tony enters the bar, proclaiming that he is leaving her to find “ugly girls,” girls who’ve “read books and can teach him something.”
Denise immediately makes a desperate advance toward Tony. All the commotion forces the taciturn bartender, Murk (Kevin Douglas), to play mediator. Murk is good at his job, which is to keep the glasses filled to the brim and water all the plants despite the fact that they’re hopelessly dead. His own girlfriend April (Gracie Jacobson) seems to suffer emotionally after her failed attempt as a nun, and has turned to the bottle.
The cast runs through the almost frustratingly cyclical plot without tiring, and although the resolution is in many ways a return, the theme is in plain sight: as human beings, we’re doomed to make the same mistakes over and over again, but that’s where the joy in life comes from.
At times it’s easy as an audience member to write off the afflictions of the characters as petty, caused by their lack of moral judgement and foresight, but their issues are the source of the plays wry and candid humor. “Savage in Limbo” captures both the spirit Bronx and the confused characters who populate it with sharp satire and raw characters that will ultimately win the hearts of any audience over.