Playwright: A. R. Gurney
Venue: John Hand Theater, 7653 East 1st Place, Denver Colorado
Running Time: 2 hours, 15 minutes (includes 15 minute intermission)
Date of Performance: Friday, June 7, 2013
Full disclosure: There are two kinds of people in this world: those who love dogs and those who love cats. I'm a dog person, so my objectivity here could be compromised. Sylvia (the title character) is a dog.
Dogs are unique pets; they love their owners unconditionally. The same cannot be said of cats, birds, or fish. In fact, it can't always be said of people either. We love some of the people in our lives, but with the possible exception of the love we have for our children, our love is usually conditional. Sylvia (the dog) brings her unconditional love to Greg and Kate, empty nesters whose relationship is profoundly affected by Sylvia's unrelenting devotion to Greg.
Kate never wanted a dog, much less a dog like Sylvia. She quickly senses that she must compete with Sylvia for Greg's love, and that she may ultimately lose that competition. When Greg brought Sylvia home, he effectively introduced a third person into a committed couples' relationship. He didn't foresee the impact Sylvia would have on his marriage or on his career.
Portraying an animal onstage is a challenge; one must not only express the animals' thoughts and emotions, but also the appropriate mannerisms for that animal. Sometimes this is accomplished through technical marvels (Warhorse, Lion King). In Sylvia, it is accomplished by a thorough understanding and recreation of dog's personality, movements, and habits. The effect is, frankly, amazing.
Sara Metz as Sylvia is the most convincing dog you may ever see onstage. She nails it.
From the first few lines of the first scene, she not an actress-she is a dog. She IS Sylvia. Playing Sylvia is physically exhausting to watch, and I'm sure it's physically exhausting for Metz to perform. She must need a "dog nap" (as opposed to a "cat nap") after the show. She is onstage for nearly the entire performance and is constantly moving around on her hands and knees.
|Andy Anderson (Greg) and Sara Metz (Sylvia)|
Emma Messenger (Tom/Phyllis/Leslie) plays multiple roles, convincingly portraying both male and female characters with equal ease. She is a gifted actress; she appeared last year in the marvelous ensemble for The Laramie Project. (If you missed The Laramie Project, you missed one of the best local productions of 2012.) Messenger's roles here are important for the plot, but also for her ability to deliver a punchline that has punch. She wrings out every possible laugh every time she is on stage.
Andy Anderson (Greg) must be a dog lover offstage, because he is definitely a dog lover onstage. To his credit, Greg returns Sylvia's unconditional love, but to his detriment, the love he has for Sylvia is love he has denied to Kate. Anderson helps us understand and empathize with the lovable but misguided (and frankly lost) Greg.
Molly Killoran is a complex Kate; she's career woman, wife, and mother. She's justifiably
conflicted by the distressing relationship between her husband and his dog. Her character arc requires her to go from rejecting Sylvia to accepting her. Killoran never misses a beat; the audience believes her evolution from rejection to acceptance.
|Sara Metz (Sylvia) and Molly Killoran (Kate)|
Katie Mangett (Director) skillfully brings out all the emotional and comedic moments, and has an obvious insight into all the things we love about dogs.
Sylvia is a comedy with a message about our relationships to our dogs and to each other. It's an important message, delivered with laugh out loud fun. (I couldn't stop laughing at Sylvia's reaction to a cat on her turf; it's hilarious.) Whether you favor canines or felines, you will be charmed, amused, and perhaps inspired by Sylvia. It's an entertaining show that will both make you laugh and make you think.
SPOILER ALERT: Never having seen Sylvia, I did not know it includes music (a single song). It's a poignant moment in the script, and Anderson, Metz, and Killoran are marvelous singing both individually and harmonizing together for Cole Porter's Ev'ry Time We Say Goodbye.
MORE FULL DISCLOSURE: It's a long story, but I have a cat. I don't "own" a cat; no one does. Chemo is a male Blue Russian cat, which creates conflict and competition for both of us. So far, I'm still the Alpha Male in the house, but he's gaining on me. Chemo is one of the main reasons I fall in the "dog person" category.
Photo Credits: Spotlight Theatre Company.
This show closes on June 29, 2013.
Expect some F-bombs here (yes, Sylvia has a potty mouth), so use discretion if you want to bring children. (No nudity or violence). Pre-show dining suggestions: Salty Rita's and Serioz Pizza, both nearby at Lowry Town Center.
Director: Katie Mangett
Scenic Design: Bernie Cardell
Lighting Design: Brian Miller
Costumer Design: Greg West
Sylvia: Sara Metz
Greg: Andy Anderson
Kate: Molly Killoran
Tom/Phyllis/Leslie: Emma Messenger