Savage in Limbo is a 1984 play by American playwright John Patrick Stanley. The play is simple, set in a seedy bar in the Bronx, where the lives of a group of 30 somethings play out. But because it’s so simple, the actors need to be the best of the best to pull it off, and All Sorts Productions’ cast is.
I was sitting in my seat, finally warming from the cold when YES’s ‘Owner of a Lonely Heart’ started playing. Not only is this song an absolute bop, but a great way to gain the audience’s attention. As the song plays, Dennis Manahan, who plays the bartender, Murk, performs typical bartender duties; setting up coasters, throwing out cigarette butt and watering the plants that may or may not be dead. Katherine Innes plays April White, who sits at the end of the bar in an outfit that made me so satisfyingly happy with how stylish and 80s accurate it was.
Anna Burgess is Dennis Savage, and the second she explodes into the scene, her energy is contagious, her accent is perfect and she never waivers at any point. With all the actors having that same convincing New Yorker accent, it was hard to not leave the show with it, as it was so gosh darn contagious. The second these actors start having their back-and-forth conversations, it’s seamless, and not a second goes by that a beat is missed or an actor drops character, all are just professional perfection.
Some of the best chemistry in Savage in Limbo is between Burgess’ Dennis and Adele Elsmar as Linda Rotunda, the characters knowing each other from school, yet their chance meeting is hilarious with how different these two women are. The moments they realise who the other is, it is an awkward but joyful moment, and one I’m sure many of us can all relate to having at some point.
Every single member of the cast is a pleasure to watch. When Linda’s partner, Tony, played by Ross Chisari steps onto the scene, he is magical. Effortlessly generating some of the biggest laughs during the show, Chisari plays key role in providing humour and warmth where comedic factor is needed as the mood of the show grows darker.
I’ve mentioned the charisma between all the actors before, but there is a moment shared between Manahan’s Murk wearing a Santa suit and Innes’s April which is both heartwarming and heartbreaking at the same time. While tender moments between characters in Savage In Limbo weren’t uncommon, there was something just so sweet, honest and special about this moment, which made the scene a true standout for me.
Despite not being in my 30s yet, I know of the fear that these characters have. I’ve seen them in my friends, my family members, and despite the fact that this is a play and therefore ‘theatrical’, it feels real. This must be due to the excellent casting, the ensembles’ chemistry, and the genuine sense that these characters know each other only helps to add to that feeling of authenticity and realness. Savage in Limbo is funny, emotional, with no sugar coating concerning the darker themes explored, but it’s never depressing or too much. The timing of the jokes was always welcome, and the tonal shifts never felt awkward.
Savage in Limbo is a play that can resonate with a person of any age, everyone will love these characters and be invested in their stories. A huge part of this is credited to the wonderful actors and director and producer, Maurice Mammoliti’s clever directorial choice of making Savage in Limbo an immersive experience where the actors are right next to you. If the production had these actors on a stage far away from the audience, it wouldn’t have accomplished the same effect.
All Sorts Productions’ Savage in Limbo is something genuinely ground-breaking with its acting and direction. The amount of passion for performing that’s put into Savage in Limbo, and the way it leaves you with a lasting impression, is something that I’ve never experienced before and will not likely forget anytime soon.
Savage in Limbo is currently playing at The Local Taphouse in St Kilda, Melbourne and will be on until the 12th of June.
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Photography by Tameika Brumby.