‘Savage in Limbo’ Brings the Bronx to Glendale

Isiah Reyes

“Savage in Limbo” delivered authentic Bronx characters with compelling acting in Glendale Community College’s studio theater Oct. 9.

Directed by Melissa Randel, the play was written by John Patrick Shanley and tells the story of a group of five Bronx regulars at a bar who express the issues over their love lives, or lack there of.

Opening with the bartender Murk (Jordan Grout), the tone is set as a somewhat comical tale as his most important job is to maintain full glasses for his unstable and alleged girlfriend, April White (Ashley Ratcliffe).

The ambiance quickly changes as Denise Savage (Meagon Ligons) bursts into the bar exclaiming that she needs a sudden change in her miserable virginal life. She is soon re-united with childhood classmate Linda Rotunda (Lauren Hamrick), who sobs her way into the bar and is struggling to hold onto the loud-mouthed Tony Aronica (Chris Beltran).

As Tony enters the bar, a mixture of humor, profanity, and attention-grabbing acting fills the scene as he admits his newfound attractiveness to “ugly girls,” leaving Linda to freak out within the tight boundaries that the studio theater provides.

With all the actors on stage, literally within reach, viewing the performance feels as if one is actually sitting in the bar witnessing the events, rather than watching the play from a safe distance.

Similarly, within the tight quarters, the actors’ voices boom and roar as tensions flare between the many conflicts sown into this intricate plot.

Other than the main quarrel between Linda and Tony, Denise decides to move out of her place and invites April and Linda to do the same. It doesn’t take long for Denise to invite Tony as well, and this infuriates Linda to no end. The plot continues to wrap around itself creating more complexities that do not resolve until the very end.

Besides the storyline and the actors’ performances, there were other positive aspects of the production.

The costumes, designed by costume supervisor Royce Herron, were appropriate for their characters. For example, Tony walks around boasting in a leather jacket and tight pants while Denise is tightly fastened up, perhaps revealing why she is still a virgin.

The lighting arrangement was also fitting. The lights slowly shine on at the beginning and slowly fade away at the end, almost as if the play takes hold of you, shows you what it needs to show, then slowly releases you back into the real world.

In terms of storytelling, the plot is somewhat believable. There is no mention of when this takes place and the only bit of information provided about the characters is that they’re all 32 years old. Perhaps that is the only shortcoming of the play; however, the missing blanks in the plot do not interfere with the actual problems presented in the play, which are indeed believable.

For instance, one problem that can happen to almost anyone is the fact that Denise wants to move out of her house but is always pulled back by her needy mother. This is only what she claims, because the truth is that she is too afraid to move out, and thus is trapped in the very thing she longs to escape.

Overall, director Randell, who has experience as an actress, dancer, and choreographer, has directed a fine interpretation of playwright Shanley’s work.

Aside from “Savage in Limbo,” Shanley has written “Moonstruck” (1987), which won the Academy Award for Writing Original Screenplay; “Doubt” (2004), which won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 2005; and a musical entitled “Romantic Poetry” (2007), co-written with Henry Krieger, an Academy Award-nominated American composer.

So, if you want to see an exceptional performance by actors who bring their characters to life (complete with Bronx accents), then be sure to check out “Savage in Limbo,” recommended for your viewing pleasure.

Upcoming shows will be on October 16, 17 and 18 at 8 p.m. and on Oct. 19 at 2 p.m.

Tickets are $10 for the general audience, $6 for students and seniors and $4 for groups of 10 or more. Seating is limited and reservations are strongly advised. There is no late seating and this play is not recommended for children. For reservations, call 818-240-1000 ext. 5612.

My rating: 4 out of 5 stars.