Backstage: Stowe Theater Guild's 'Sylvia'
09/26/03 12:00AM By Neal Charnoff
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(Host) There have been many plays devoted to the love triangle. Usually these plays concern the other man or the other woman. But how often does one encounter the other dog?
VPR's Neal Charnoff goes "Backstage" with the Stowe Theater Guild's production of "Sylvia."
(Charnoff) Greg and Kate are a middle-aged couple living on Manhattan's upper west side. Their marriage seems to be healthy, until Greg discovers Sylvia, a part-lab part-poodle mix. He brings her home, and an unusual relationship begins. Unusual, because in the world of A. R. Gurney's comedy, "Sylvia," the dog can talk.
Soon enough, Greg is directing all of his attention toward Sylvia. In this scene, a jealous Greg confronts Sylvia while on a walk in Central Park.
(Greg) "Well, well..."
(Sylvia) 'You speakin' to me?"
(Greg) "You have a good time out there?"
(Sylvia) "I believe it's time to go home."
(Greg) "I said, did you have a good time out there?"
(Sylvia) "I'd prefer not to discuss it."
(Greg) "You like Bowser?"
(Greg) "You know who I'm talking about. Bowser, that big guy with his tail up heading home."
(Sylvia) "Oh yeah, him."
(Greg) "Do you like him?"
(Sylvia) "It's really none of your business, Greg.
(Greg) "Well it seems out there you made it everybody's business."
(Sylvia) "Look Greg, I happen to be exhausted."
(Greg) "I bet you are."
(Sylvia) "I am tired, I am hungry and I'm not going to stand around this park all day discussing ancient history. What happened between me and Bowser is over and done with. It was just a fling, Greg, it was just a dumb, silly fling. We both got temporarily carried away, now let's leave it at that."
(Charnoff) Sylvia is played by the aptly named Jana Beagley. She explains that Sylvia appears as Greg perceives her. As Greg experiences a mid-life crisis, the dog ultimately takes on the role of "the other woman."
(Beagley) "A lot of her behaviors are a cross between a dog's nature and the nature of a woman with some of the qualities that this dog has, like the unconditional love, the enthusiasm, the innocence, the naivete. In a world where so many of our relationships are conditional and compromised and temporary, that complete love that a dog gives you is very, very attractive."
(Charnoff) Greg is played by Joe Mara. He believes that, other than the talking dog, the play is an accurate portrayal of a contemporary marriage.
(Greg) "It's really about a relationship of a couple who have been together for very long periods of time. They are now empty nesters, and they are trying to identify who they are at this stage of their life. She's going off and finding new things with a new job, and he's totally disillusioned with his job, and the dog is essentially the catalyst for them to deal with their own reality and then move on and develop from that."
(Charnoff) Here, Greg's wife Kate confides in her human friend Phyllis.
(Kate) "I think I hate Sylvia, Phyllis."
(Kate) "I do. I never thought I could hate anybody but Nixon, but I hate Sylvia."
(Phyllis) "That's just a little drastic Kate."
(Kate) "I don't care, I want to kill her, Phyllis, I want to put D-con in her dog food."
(Phyllis) Oh, how can you do that, Kate?"
(Kate) "Well I feel doomed, cooped up in this tiny apartment with this creature."
(Phyllis) "Well then draw the line, Kate, say she's simply got to go."
(Kate) "I've tried. We keep making these clear agreements and Greg keeps breaking them, like Hitler."
(Charnoff) Jana Beagley says the play is a reminder that we all need to keep perspective throughout our lives.
(Beagley) "I think it's about finding the purpose in your life. And the things that we use to remind ourselves about the kind of creatures that we are. As human beings living in a pretty cerebral world, we turn to animals often, we turn to some of our most basic relationships to remind us that we need something vital in our lives, we need some purpose in our lives, we need some immediacy in our lives. And I think in this play, Greg rediscovers his need for that. And while he uses a surrogate at first, he ultimately needs to find a way to truly inject some of these desires, these basic needs, back into his real life."
(Charnoff) For Sylvia, (sound of Sylvia barking, "Hey! Hey! Hey! Hey!") and for VPR Backstage, I'm Neal Charnoff.
"Sylvia" will be performed at the Town Hall Theater in Stowe through October 11.