Theatre Mirror Reviews"Sylvia"

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide


"What Happened in Boston, Willie"

entire contents copyright 2012 by Tony Annicone


Reviewed by Tony Annicone

Rhode Island College's current show is A.R. Gurney's, "Sylvia". It is the male viewpoint of a man's midlife crisis. Gurney uses a female dog as a metaphor for the other woman in this man's life. The love and affection of this female dog helps him to escape from a nagging, jealous wife. The talking dog helps the man cope with his problems and eventually brings the couple together by show's end. Add three other characters to this trio and you have Mr. Gurney's solution on marital problems. Director Jamie Taylor casts the roles beautifully, eliciting wonderful performances from his cast that move you to laughter and tears in all the right places.

The gorgeous unit set is by Emily Hamel. Most of the humor in the show comes from the relationship between Greg and his talking dog, Sylvia as well as their meetings with another dog owner, a female friend of the couple and their therapist. Kate, the wife is the listener and supposed victim of this talking dog, making her role more serious than the others. She becomes the straightman of this play, who spouts quotes from Shakespeare at the close of some of the scenes. Kate is a Shakespeare teacher in an inner city school in NYC. When Sylvia returns Kate's copy of "All's Well That Ends Well", the dog tells the wife how to fix her marriage, letting the title of the returned book come true for this show, too.

Talented, Maria Corsini gives a tour-de-force performance as the loveable, talking dog, Sylvia. She uses an accent and keeps her hair up in two pigtails in her portrayal. Maria hits all the laugh lines perfectly and her rubbing up against the female friend of the couple is hilarious. The dog in heat scene where she finally has sex with Bowzer is hilarious, too. She runs around in a frenzy of excitement and makes all the right moves. Portraying her long suffering owner is Nathanael Lee. He handles the huge role of the middle aged husband with ease. The relationship between the dog owner and his pet is very believable due to his line delivery to Sylvia at the start of the show. It helps the audience understand this kind of storyline. He also  handles the scenes with his wife and the other characters beautifully. Nathanael's warmth and genuineness in playing this kind and loving man who is finally accepted by his wife, comes through and he has the audience rooting for a happy ending for him. Playing the nagging wife, Kate, is Sarah Pierce. She plays the shrewish parts as well as the poignant ones in a very convincing manner. Sarah, Nathanael and Maria sing "Every time we say goodbye" song during the airport scene when she has to leave her husband at home. She and Nathanael also tug at your heartstrings when they explain things at the end of the show, making the audience's eyes fill up with tears.

The biggest scene stealers are the other three performers. Justin Paige as Tom, the owner of Bowzer who tells Greg how female dogs behave and what books to read. The second is James Lewis Burgis who plays this role in drag, wearing a blonde wig. He is hilarious as Phyllis, an old friend of Kate's from Vassar. His reactions as Phyllis have to be seen to be believed. He cringes at the sight of the dog, has girl talk with Kate about Phyllis' husband's pet goldfish, and has hilarious facial expressions when the dog jumps up in her arms and grabs her boobs. The couple's therapist, Leslie who can either be a man or a woman, depending on who his patient chooses him to be. Corinne Southern plays the role and wins many laughs. So for a terrific show, be sure to catch "Sylvia" at Rhode Island College.

"Sylvia" (14 - 18 November)
@ ,Mainstage Theatre ,600 Mount Pleasant Avenue, PROVIDENCE RI

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide