Theatre Mirror Reviews - "The Goat"

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note: entire contents copyright 2012 by David Adams Murphy 

"The Goat -or- Who Is Sylvia?"
by Edward Albee. Produced by 2nd Story Theater

Reviewed by David Adams Murphy 

It's unusual, I think, to start a favorable review with a warning. But when an theater's Artistic Director (and star of the production in question) says "Pearl Clutchers beware!," I suppose that a cautionary note is in order. So here goes: I'd urge anyone who loves theater to attend 2nd Story Theater's staging of THE GOAT(or WHO IS SYLVIA by Edward Albee. The play stands alongside WHO'S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF and THE ZOO STORY as some of his finest work; director Mark Peckham has staged it with gusto and exquisite timing; and the work of its four person cast is flawless--some of the very best work I've yet seen on a local stage. BUT: it's a play about a man who has sex with a goat--has in fact , he claims, fallen in love with a goat, the titular Sylvia. And while there's abundant laughter in this lightening-fast 75-minute intermission-less evening , it's not played for laughs. Anyone expecting a dark comedy sketch ala the Gene Wilder episode in Woody Allen's EVERYTHING YOU ALWAYS WANTED TO KNOW ABOUT SEX... might be disappointed, but shouldn't be, as he'll discover something even better: a piece of theater that will delight , shock, appall and leave you speechless.

Martin, a wealthy, acclaimed architect, basks in personal and professional success on his fiftieth birthday. He and his elegantly sensual wife Stevie engage in loving. witty banter in their beautifully furnished apartment (Trevor Elllot's set would make anyone want to move in) as he prepares to be interviewed for radio by their dear friend Ross. Martin's has everything any sane man would wish for--but he's fallen in love with a goat. When he reveals his secret to Ross, his marriage and life will be changed forever and (spoiler alert!) probably not for the good. All I can tell you is that this play and production don't constitute a plea for bestiality; Ed Shea exudes charm and intelligence as Martin but refuses --like the playwright-- to judge or lampoon the man he plays; repulsed as you may be by Martin's confession or his attempts to justify himself, you cannot help but feel for this man's pain and suspend your disbelief in the face of a seemingly absurd premise. Sharon Carpentier shows extraordinary range as Stevie, equal to Albee's dazzling comic repartee (at times she and Shea seem more like athletes or musicians than actors as they lob first bon mots and then vitriol at each other ) and to the emotional depths her character inevitably plumbs; this is work on a heroic scale. Both leads share a physical and psychic chemistry that make the unraveling of this marriage that much more wrenching . Supporting them superbly are Mike Zola as Ross (a moral man whose motives may be suspect) and Ben Church as son Billy, a seemingly well-adjusted gay teen who may not be able to weather the shock and horror of the drama's revelations. So by all means go, forewarned but disarmed, to THE GOAT. It's a leap of faith you won't regret.

"The Goat -or- Who Is Sylvia?" (27 September - 21 October)
@ 28 Market Street, WARREN RI

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide