Wednesday, November 18, 2015

The Dog, Or Who Is Sylvia?

I've long been a fan of A.R. Gurney, but though he's written numerous plays, he's only been represented on a Broadway a handful of times.  So I was surprised to see a revival of Sylvia is now on the Great White Way, starring Matthew Broderick and recent Tony winner Annaleigh Ashford.  Since I don't live in New York (see my name) I did the next best thing and read the play.

It was originally produced 20 years ago off-Broadway at the Manhattan Theatre Club, starring Sarah Jessica Parker, Charles Kimbrough and Blythe Danner.  The title character is a dog who comes into the life of a middle-aged couple faced with an empty nest.  The husband, Greg, is taken with her, but wife Kate sees her as a rival.

Half the fun is the concept: Sylvia talks.  But no one makes a big deal of it.  The characters converse with Sylvia, who thinks (mostly) like a dog.  Greg is suffering from a midlife crisis and needs Sylvia, while Kate wants to get on with their new life and doesn't want the commitment.  It's a comedy, but considering how silly it could be, the play produces some fairly deep emotions, and even intriguing love scenes, as it were, between Sylvia and Greg. It's mostly these three characters, but there's a fourth actor who plays three supporting roles--a man, a woman and someone in-between.

The main issue throughout is with Sylvia devoted to her master, and Greg obsessed with Sylvia, will Kate force her out of the house?  Or will Greg leave his wife behind and keep Sylvia? Gurney has managed to find a twist in the classic love triangle.  And the outcome is uncertain till the end--I won't spoil it for you.  But I'd like to see a production some day to see how it comes across on stage.


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