“The leading lady is a dog!” Don’t misinterpret that statement; you would risk talking yourself out of a very pleasurable theatrical experience. Indeed, the playwright initially had trouble getting this play produced (see below).*
Forest Moon Theater has converted the Wake Forest Community House into a theater in order to produce A.R. Gurney’s Sylvia, directed by Mike McGee. And we’re glad they did! The show is fun, it moves fast, and it is easy to relate to.
We have all experienced periods in our lives when we felt that “something is missing.” The more fortunate among us find the “missing piece” to the “puzzle” that is our lives rather serendipitously — we meet someone new who becomes special to us; we try a new activity that becomes an engrossing hobby; we get a new job that we find fulfilling; or as is the case with Greg (played by Larry Evans), we fall in love with a dog.
Greg had left work early one day because of an argument with his boss; he had gone to a park (perhaps to cool off); and he had been joined by a dog — Sylvia (Kylee Silvas). It was love at first sight. He brought her home with him only to find that his wife, Kate (Shana Fisher), certainly does not see Silvia as the part needed to complete her life. (Keep an ear out for Kate’s riff on Sylvia’s name!)
As Greg, Larry Evans is “just plain likeable.” Within a very few minutes, we found ourselves engaged by this character and invested in his well-being. Looking back, it’s hard to believe that we only “knew” Greg for two hours.
Shana Fisher’s Kate is also likeable but for a different reason — we found this character to be “admirable.” Dedicated to her career and passionate about it, Kate (at first) does not understand Greg’s situation. Watch for Kate’s literary quotes; she conjures up act and scene off the top of her head, and Fisher sells it like a pro.
The play contains three other people: Tom (a man that Greg meets at the Dog Park), Phyllis (an old friend of Kate’s with whom she reconnects), and Leslie (a marriage counsellor). With three different costumes, three different wigs, three different pairs of shoes, and three different delightful personalities, Tony Hefner delivers three amazing characters! Pay particular attention to Tom’s references to books (and to the title of the book he is reading).
Last, but not least —
The best way to describe Kylee Silvas’ Silvia is this: she is a bundle of energy. Silvas walks, talks, and thinks “dog.” Effervescent at times, apologetic at others, slyly manipulative on occasion, this Sylvia embodies the term “loveable.”
Director Mike McGee, producer Bob Baird, and master carpenter Tony Womack have teamed up to design an authentic living room of New York apartment set (complete with skyline), and there are two video screens (stage left and stage right) that add glimpses of other parts of the apartment. Shifts in furniture, changes in lighting, and a different view on the video screens take us to a dog park, a street in New York City, and to Leslie’s office.
The program credits David Petrone and Elaine Petrone as “Lighting Consultants” and Jamie Dey as “Lights Crew.” Well done!
And: hats off to costumes assistant Karen Marchuska and props master Pam McClure!
A quick word about the video screens: they also supply pre- and post-show video to get us in the mood and keep us there.
Playing through Sunday, Feb. 18th, Gurney’s play is a delight, and Forest Moon Theater does it proud. Wake Forest Community House is a little off-the-beaten-path, but it is not hard to find. Our recommendation: If you are up for a lot of laughs, a few tears, a warm feeling, and a memorable experience, come on down!
WARNING: Sit in the front row at your own risk!
Footnote 1: “Theatres refused it on the grounds that it equated a dog with a woman, and to ask a woman to play a dog was not just misogynist, but blatantly sexist…. Obviously, I didn’t see it that way, and I still don’t. But we were very nervous during previews because we didn’t know what we had until the reviews came out.” SOURCE.
Footnote 2: “Dogs are special. Every dog owner knows that. And most dog owners feel their dog understands every word they say and every move they make. Research over the last two decades shows dogs really can understand human communication in ways no other species can.” SOURCE.
SECOND OPINION: Feb. 11th Raleigh, NC Triangle Arts and Entertainment’s review by Susie Potter: http://triangleartsandentertainment.org/2018/02/forest-moon-theaters-sylvia-is-a-barking-good-time/.
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).
A native of North Carolina, Yvette L. Holder has studied theater at three institutions: the University of North Carolina School of the Arts, the Lee Strasberg Theatre & Film Institute (New York), and N.C. Central University, where she received a BA in Dramatic Arts. Yvette also promotes and produces comedy theater, as well as working with playwrights around the country during the development stage of their work. She hosts a monthly play reading session: “Sips and Scripts” at Imurj in downtown Raleigh. Kurt Benrud is a graduate of Cary High School and N.C. State University, and he has taught English at both. He first became involved in local theater in 1980. He has served on the board of directors for both the Cary Players and the Cary Playwrights’ Forum. He is also a volunteer reader with Triangle Radio Reading Service. Click here to read Yvette and Kurt’s reviews for Triangle Review and Triangle Arts and Entertainment.