Theatre Mirror Reviews - "The Goat"

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note: entire contents copyright 2006 by Beverly Creasey

Getting Spiro's

By Beverly Creasey

In order to get what Edward Albee is driving at in his highly controversial “THE GOAT or, Who Is Sylvia?” (in a stunning production at the Lyric Stage) you could assume the story is masquerading as metaphor. Or try to understand the man who has fallen in love with a goat in classical terms. Those Greek gods were always pursuing the mortal object of their affection in the guise of animals. Titian’s masterpiece (at the Gardner Museum across town), “The Rape of Europa” depicts her in the arms of a bull. Nobody recoils from the Titian---because we know it’s Zeus in disguise…or we know it’s mythology…or we know it’s in the distant past. And it doesn’t happen where we live.

Albee asks us to consider what matters: Is anything fair game as long as no one finds out? Is ‘telling’ the sin? To help us navigate these uncharted waters, Albee gives almost everyone in the play a point of view. The husband is besotted (in a new twist on the proverbial midlife crisis). The wife is furious. The man’s best friend is disgusted and the teenaged son is horrified. Where’s the point of view of the goat? The human beings get to make their case but what about the sentient being? I know, I know. So write me off as the wacky vegan animal activist but no one seems to be interested in the goat’s feelings. And we now know that animals have feelings not so unlike ours. We only have the husband’s word that Sylvia loves him back. How do we know she isn’t frightened to death when he approaches.

But seriously, Albee presents complicated human relationships with the very human issue of betrayal at their center ---and then he redirects all the energy of the play to fit in an animal from an entirely different playing (or rather grazing) field. The human drama is compromised and the animal drama is never addressed. Mind you, Albee knows a thing of two about keeping an audience entertained. The play is peppered with delicious allusions, from Pinter to Shakespeare—and it’s quite funny, believe it or not. And you will be asking yourself if she’s right when the wife declares that her husband “has broken something that can’t be fixed.”

Director Spiro Veloudos is a master of the Noel Coward comedy and for a while the play seems so very clever and witty. But several dark moments color the rest of the action and you feel the play physically, viscerally move toward tragedy. Surprisingly, it’s not the bestiality, it’s the beastly words hurled in anger that set up the horrific, deeply disturbing conclusion of the play.

Paula Plum is perfection as the wounded wife, glorious in her “deep woe” soliloquy. Tasso Feldman is sweetly vulnerable as the son caught in the middle of the whirlwind. Richard Snee makes a living, caring character out of the static, “status quo”quoting best friend and Stephen Schnetzer creates a pitiable character whose tragic flaw is that he couldn’t see ahead of time, that his life would careen out of control.

Brynna C. Bloomfield’s tony New York apartment/set is so gorgeously appointed (and so tastefully lit by Robert Cordella) that you wish you could sublet. Shanna Parks’ chic costumes look like Barney’s best. Who knows, when you actually think about it, what’s really going on behind the façades of all those “happy households.” You’re always hearing about husbands who fool around with the nanny. Albee just ups the ante to a nanny goat.

"The Goat" (18 February - 19 March)
140 Clarendon Street, BOSTON MA
1 (617)585.5678

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide