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Savage World 

Thursday, Oct 23 2008
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Inspired by the story of an African-American boxer wrongfully convicted of murdering a white, Jewish couple, playwright Stephen Fife’s sprawling melodrama revolves around the efforts of a reporter named Sol Eisner (Erik Passoja) to establish the athlete’s innocence. The play starts in the present, with the now middle-aged Eisner struggling to provide direction for his university-educated son (Nate Geez), inexplicably hostile and rebellious. It then flashes back to the ’70s, to his meetings with the accused, named Calvin ”Savage” James (Vincent M. Ward), and his labyrinthine search for evidence of the man’s innocence. The juicy core of the conflict is whether Savage, a proven liar, thief and abuser of women, is indeed not guilty. But instead of exploiting this ambiguity with the depths of ferocity it deserves, the nearly three-hour piece meanders through a plethora of manipulated subplots and extraneous characters more suitable to a convoluted B-movie police drama than an intense character-driven drama. Ultimately, the production gains traction from Passoja’s fastidiously calibrated portrait of a solidly middle-class Jewish intellectual — somewhat nerdy — willing to take risks for his principles. The many solid supporting performances include Latarsha Rose as Eisner’s love interest; Tom Badal as his Uncle Jack, whose support Sol craves; and Ernest Harden Jr., as a pivotal witness whose story keeps changing. As Savage, Ward needs more complexity and volcanic heat. Subpar lighting contributes to the production’s lack of focus. L. Flint Esquerra directs.
Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. Starts: Oct. 17. Continues through Nov. 23, 2008

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