If your dog could talk, what would it say? More importantly, what would it say about you? Actually, our dogs say a lot about us already, or at least that’s the theory posited by Forest Moon Theater’s production of Sylvia, written by A.R. Gurney and directed for the Wake Forest, NC community theater by Mike McGee of Raleigh.
Sylvia is all about how dogs can help their owners through some rough spots and, perhaps, even help them discover the natural instincts that they’ve been neglecting. Of course, in this show, there’s no dog onstage — at least not a real one. The dog here, the title character, is portrayed instead by Kylee Silvas; and, yes, she can and does talk.
Set in Manhattan, the story focuses on what happens when an empty-nest couple, Kate (Shana Fisher) and Greg (Larry Evans), bring home Sylvia. Actually, it’s Greg that does the “bringing home,” and Kate who resents him for it.
Greg, who is struggling at work and going through a midlife crisis of sorts, is delighted to find Sylvia in the park one day, and he allows her to take over his life, as dogs so often do. He falls in love with Sylvia, creating problems in his marriage in the process.
Larry Evans is wonderful in his role as Greg, a man who is questioning everything in his life. His lighthearted delivery and his genuine, believable affection toward Sylvia make Greg an easy character to root for. Likewise, Shana Fisher offers just the right touch of brusqueness (with kindness underneath) to make Kate understandable … though dog lovers may find her disdain for Sylvia a little hard to take.
Of course, the real star of the show is Sylvia herself. Kylee Silvas, bedecked with everything from fuzzy sweaters to puffy, poodle hair, gives an energized performance as the title dog. She sniffs, scratches, runs, and crawls her way through the two-act play, displaying a great gift for physical humor and keeping the audience laughing throughout. However, she is not the only comedic gem to be found here.
The play also features one more cast member, Tony Hefner, who shows up as Tom, Greg’s friend from the dog park; Phyllis, Kate’s uppity friend; and Leslie, a gender-neutral marriage counselor. Hefner delivers in each of these roles, making every funny line stand out, and somehow always managing to be believable as each new character. Stellar costuming and hair and makeup really help with the believable part, especially in Hefner’s turn as Phyllis.
Mike McGee directs this show, and his actors, with obvious heart and great attention to detail. Nice touches, such as a pet slideshow before the show begins and a character covertly reading a book called How to Speak Dog, make this production just a little more intricate and a little more likeable than others, proving — just as the script does — that, sometimes, it’s the little things that make the biggest difference.
Sprinkled with appropriate Shakespeare quotes and plenty of smart jokes that you’ll miss if you aren’t listening carefully, A.R. Gurney’s script is enjoyable and engaging from start to finish. And aside from all the humor, it is ultimately a story of love and of how one marriage grew a whole lot stronger with a little help from a special dog.
The Forest Moon Theater presents SYLVIA at 7:30 p.m. Feb. 16 and 17 and 8 p.m. Feb. 18 at the Wake Forest Community House, 133 W. Owen Ave., Wake Forest, North Carolina 27587.
TICKETS: $15 in advance ($13 students 18 and under and seniors 65+) and $18 the day of show ($16 students 18 and under and seniors 65+).
BOX OFFICE: 919-435-9458 or https://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/3221433.
2017-18 SEASON: https://forestmoontheater.org/current-season/.
DIRECTIONS/MAP (scroll down): https://www.wakeforestnc.gov/wake-forest-community-house.aspx.
Sylvia (1995 Off-Broadway and 2015 Broadway comedy): https://www.dramatists.com/cgi-bin/db/single.asp?key=775 (Dramatists Play Service, Inc.), http://www.lortel.org/Archives/Production/680 (Internet Off-Broadway Database), https://www.ibdb.com/broadway-show/sylvia-501239 (Internet Broadway Database), and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sylvia_(play) (Wikipedia).
The Script: http://books.google.com/ (Google Books).
Study Guide: https://www.denvercenter.org/docs/default-source/Show-Study-Guides/all-study-guides/sylvie.pdf?sfvrsn=4 (Denver Center for the Performing Arts).
A.R. Gurney (Buffalo, NY-born playwright and screenwriter, 1930-2017): http://www.argurney.com/ (official website), http://www.lortel.org/Archives/CreditableEntity/627 (Internet Off-Broadway Database), https://www.ibdb.com/broadway-cast-staff/ar-gurney-84220 (Internet Broadway Database), http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0348672/ (Internet Movie Database), and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A._R._Gurney (Wikipedia).
Mike McGee (Raleigh, NC director): https://www.facebook.com/Mike.McGee9 (Facebook page).
Susie Potter is a Raleigh, NC-based freelance writer and editor. She is a 2009 graduate of Raleigh’s Meredith College, where she majored in English. She holds graduate degrees in teaching and American literature from North Carolina State University in Raleigh. In addition to her work for Triangle Arts and Entertainment, she is an award-winning author of short fiction. Her works have appeared in The Colton Review, Raleigh Quarterly, Broken Plate Magazine, Big Muddy: A Journal of the Mississippi River Valley, the Chaffey Review, and Existere. To read all of Susie Potter’s Triangle Arts and Entertainment articles and reviews, click http://triangleartsandentertainment.org/author/susie-q/. To read more of her writings, click http://www.triangleartsreview.com/, http://www.susiepotter.com, and http://www.myspace.com/susiepotter.