By Josh Nordmark
Directed by Mikey Laird
Produced by Nothing Special Productions
At The Den, Chicago
Overwritten new work short on veracity
Josh Nordmark’s new work, Savage Land, now in a world premiere production at The Den, is an overwritten drama long on speeches and short on interpersonal chemistry. The vagueness of the work set in an unnamed island sometime in the 19th Century peopled with characters trying to be Victorian imperialistic representatives of some country with natives that look like white boys and girls from down the block left me asking more questions than the play answered. If you’re going to have a play titled, “Savage Land,” maybe it would be best to create an atmosphere conducive to a savage island? Then find some actors who look like they might be from a savage land. Well groomed white guys and gals are not appropriate.
Next, make sure that the non-island residents (of which all were white folks), conquers for sure are identified. Are they British or Americans? Probably British since the new island governor is called a “viceroy.” And when you write your main characters, make sure that you don’t write to0 many long wordy speeches. The island painter/scientist Henry (Matt Drake0 and his rival, Fauntleroy (Scott Danielson) both have several long,wordy speeches that sound only like playwright speak rather than words a person would say. I think playwright Josh Nordmark was trying to replicate English Victorian-styled speech patterns. It didn’t work.
Lastly, I didn’t find Verse (Celeste Burns) sexy enough nor did she exude enough depth of character to believe that she really loved first Henry the later Fauntleroy. Her motivation was vague leaving me wondering why she did what she did–her actions came off as playwright manipulation. The plot contained too many cliched elements that found the European conquers attacking the innocent natives. It just rang hollow.
Savage Land is work-in-progress that needs to be re-thought, trimmed and make more specific. The casting decisions need to be more authentic. Savage Land, as presented, isn’t ready for an audience.
At The Den, 1333 N. Milwaukee Ave., Chicago, tickets $17, Fridays at 8 pm, Saturdays at 3 & 8 pm, Sundays at 7 pm, running time is 2 hours with intermission.