Granite Theatre's first show of the 2005 season 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 help 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 into the mix and you have Mr. Gurney's solution on marital problems. Arthur Pignataro directs this show with a deft hand, perfectly mixing comedy with pathos to give the audience a well directed show.
Arthur uses a beautiful NY apartment set as well as a sliding black curtain with a park bench and one side of the stage for the therapists office set. Most of the humor in the show comes from the relationship between Greg and his talking dog as well as his wife's disapproval of Sylvia, another dog owner, a female friend of the couple and their therapist. Kate, the wife becomes the supposed victim of this talking dog and Kate spouts quotes from Shakespeare at the close of some of the scenes since she is a Shakespeare teacher in an inner city junior high 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,
Christina Saad Wolfskehl gives a powerful performance as the loveable, talking dog. She keeps her hair in pigtails as Sylvia and she hits all the laugh lines perfectly. Christina moves around the stage just like a real dog and her reactions to other dogs, a cat and the other humans is right on the money.She handles the dog in heat scene where she finally gets laid by Bowzer beautifully but it is her poignant closing scenes with Greg and Kate that really stand out, bringing tears to your eyes. Artistic director David Jepson plays the role of the middle aged husband, Greg. He handles this role with ease, making the relationship with Sylvia very believable with his line delivery, helping the audience understand this different kind of storyline. David'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 unaccepting wife, Kate is David's real life wife, Beth. She handles the comic parts of this role very well as a shrewish, controlling wife, always yelling at the dog to stay off the couch and calling her saliva. Beth also delivers the goods in the poignant scene with Sylvia and she and David tug at your heartstrings when they fondly remember their life with their dog, explaining things at the end of the show.
The three remaining performers deliver the goods in their roles, too. David LaRocque plays Tom, Bowzer's owner, who tells Greg how dogs and wives behave. He recommends all sorts of dog books and tells Greg about female dogs specifically. David adds zest to this know it all macho dog owner and gets many laughs with his descriptive phrases. Kathleen Kearney Berney plays Phyllis, Kate's old friend from Vassar who is an alcoholic rich snob. She has girl talk with Kate about her husband's pet goldfish, cringes at the sight of the dog, makes faces when the dog jumps on her and gulps her drink when Greg makes Sylvia do tricks. Mary Sue Chiaradio is a hoot as the couple's therapist with a Southern accent. The therapist's name is Leslie but she lets her patients decide if she is a male or female therapist. Mary Sue is clad in a dark suit and tie and her proclamations of therapy are very funny. So for a fun filled evening with a little warmth mixed in, be sure to catch, Sylvia at the Granite Theatre.