The Towne Players of Garner have hit another one out of the park with their current production of Sylvia by A.R. Gurney, one the country’s more prolific playwrights. In this work, Gurney examines the relationship between pets and owners, with a farcically wry humor and discomforting psychology.
Atbthe start of the play, Greg brings home an apparently stray dog, Sylvia, from the park, much to the chagrin of his wife Kate. Any pet lover will understand what ensues.
Director Beth Honeycutt has chosen a wonderful cast to showcase this community-theater perennial. She has found all the nuances of the characters and situations, and her cast delivers polished performances that keep the audience rolling in the proverbial aisles. The pickups are snappy, the action constant, the costumes appropriate and enhancing, especially the many changes Sylvia adopts helping tell her story. Clever interlude doggie songs keep the canine spirit alive.
Maribeth McCarthy shines as the title character, bringing a puppyish, wriggly, affectionate demeanor to her role as Sylvia. Her physical antics are wonderfully choreographed, and her nonstop scampering and activity make her a perfect puppy-dog.
Greg is played by Jim O’Brien with a blank-faced naiveté that resembles Jack Benny. He drives home that Greg “doesn’t have a clue.” His affection for Sylvia is handled with such off-handed naturalness that, of course, we know he “loves” her.
Leslie Dahlin undertakes the almost thankless role of Kate, Greg’s wife. Dahlin must make her character walk a life-altering tightrope, deciding between a hard-earned career opportunity to accomplish something daring and important, or giving up a husband (and dog). Dahlin makes us walk that rope with her.
Three different roles — Tom, Phyllis, and Leslie — are all played by the same actor, Tim Stancil. Tom is the fellow Greg meets in the park, who also walks his dog, Bowser, there. Bowser is a “hunk” in Sylvia’s estimation, a magnificent canine. Stancil presents Tom as a kind of matter-of-fact macho dude, given to “manly” advice.
Phyllis is a socialite, whom Kate befriends for support of her new educational endeavors; and the meeting turns into an over-the-top farce as they slip into discussing personal problems. Stancil’s rendition of Phyllis is hilarious, giving us a self-important grande dame who deteriorates very nicely.
Leslie, a therapist examining her/his own gender, is trying to help Kate resolve her marital problems. Here Stancil presents a very believable frustrated soul. Three solid pieces of fine acting.
Much credit is due to Scott Honeycutt for the fine technical details that support this production — lights and, presumably, the neat apartment Greg and Kate live in and the great backdrop that locates them in a tree-filled block somewhere in the heart of New York City.
Martha Keravuori is a life-long theater artist — an actress, director, and stage manager — in North Carolina, around the country, and overseas. She has a theater degree from UNC-Greensboro, and has been active in the arts in Raleigh for the past 40 years. Martha is the retired executive director of the North Carolina Theatre Conference. Chuck Galle returned to Raleigh last year after a 17-year absence. He was active in community theater for many years, and directed the troupe of maximum-security inmates at Raleigh’s Central Prison known as the Central Prison Players. In New England, he performed on stage, on TV, and in films. He is the author of Stories I Never Told My Daughter — An Odyssey, which can be ordered on his website: http://www.chuckgalle.com/. Chuck Galle and Martha Keravuori review theater for Boom! Magazine of Cary. Click here to read more of their reviews for Boom! Magazine and here to read more of their reviews for Triangle Review and Triangle Arts and Entertainment