Review – ‘Savage Wealth’ at Main Stage West By Alexa Chipman
Duct taped furniture is scattered across the floor of a Lake Tahoe vacation home. It has seen better days, and its tantalizing view of the shoreline is at risk if the vacant lot across the road is put to use. After the passing of their father, two estranged brothers are attempting to sell the house, which seems to have endless issues for contractors to fix before going on the market. Their petty bickering is interrupted when the nearby lakeshore property that could block the vista is put up for sale. Desperate to stop the owner from putting up a sign, the brothers try everything from breaking and entering to seducing the neighbor.
Through an absurd plot and quirky characters, local playwright Bob Duxbury emphasizes conversations about selfish forms of philanthropy, the importance of true kindness, and using objects as a form of spiritually letting go. He has a way of adding a twist at the end of anecdotes which is surprising and thought-provoking. The story of a Thanksgiving dinner going horribly wrong was especially familiar.
Self-absorbed Beenie (Ilana Niernberger) visited India for a few weeks, and has returned acting as if she lived there for years, arriving in dramatic Bollywood style garments and constantly talking about the ashram. She has her heart set on a Beniamino Bufano sculpture that she believes the brothers own, and does not hesitate to control the situation to her advantage, despite reassuring them that her interest is purely selfless.
Gabe (Matt Cadigan) sees right through her “trust fund” act. Struggling to get by, he has difficulty holding a job, and is unimpressed by corporate America. At brief glance, his life appears to be a failure, yet his capacity for love is unquenchable. His brother Todd (Peter T. Downey) is involved with politics, resulting in an obsession with his personal image at the expense of others, and a jaded outlook of humanity. His constant texting and staring at his phone is a jarring commentary on modern social interactions.
Capturing the interior of a Tahoe home with contemporary, rustic design and a sweeping forest through the picture window, David Lear and E. Craven’s set is instantly recognizable. Subtle shifts in Missy Weaver’s lighting design indicate the passage of time.
A combination of engaging dialogue and tasteful, well-paced direction by John Shillington keeps this world premiere lively and intriguing. It is a pleasant comedy that lingers on after it has ended, leaving questions such as what is kindness?
Presented by Main Stage West through September 16, 2018 Thur/Fri/Sat at 8:00pm, Sun at 5:00pm
Main Stage West 104 North Main Street, Sebastopol, CA 95472
(707) 823-0177 www.mainstagewest.com
Photos by Eric Chazankin