Theatre Mirror Reviews - "Sylvia"

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note: entire contents copyright 2003 by Roger Bentley

Wellesley Players' "Sylvia"
Barks Up The Right Tree

Reviewed by Roger Bentley

In all the years I have been seeing and reviewing theatre across the country, it still amazes me when a director is given the grueling task of having to replace an actor within a week of the performance dates, especially when the director is the person agrees to perform the role. And at a community theatre level, I imagine it must be all the more daunting a committment since most of the people have full-time employment during the day. So imagine my surprise when I walked into Babson College on Saturday night expecting to see a crisp production of SYLVIA performed by the Wellesley Players and hear the president of the group announce that a cast replacement has been made the previous Sunday and the director would be going on in the role of GREG, which is the male lead.

I am not sure who the previous GREG was but its hard to imagine anyone else playing the role with this ensemble than the director, Tim Fitzgerald. Fitzgerald along with fellow cast members Robbie Levy, Rita Ford and Connie Dawson gave splendid performances, in spite of their handicap. I was very surprised to see Fitzgerald in another role so soon as I had just caught his act at TCAN's production of BABY. And although he did have the script at his side, I can honestly say that I seldom caught him referring to the script. Quite the contrary, I found him to be very much at ease on stage with his fellow actors and in his own character. A very natural caring and touching performance indeed. You have my compliments, Mr Fitzgerald! Bravo! As SYLVIA, the audience was treated to the canine antics of Ms Robbie Levy, whose nuances and movements were absolutely brilliant. Levy has the daunting task of portraying a dog throughout the entire performance and, being a dog owner myself, must have spent a lot of time observing dogs and their movements and characteristics. Her comic timing and character choices were right on the money, making her a definite hit with the audience. Fitzgerald and Levy were truly brilliant in their scenes together, showing us the truly remarkable and caring scenes between a dog and her owner. They truly, to coin a phrase from the show, "bonded".

Sherborn resident Connie Dawson was very effective in the role of Greg's wife Kate. Not wanting to care for a stray, Dawson's Kate was immediately labeled the nemesis to Sylvia via her character choices. However, due to some careful directorial choices, she did not fall into the trap of playing a character without hope of redemption. Dawson portrayed a loving and caring wife to Greg, who was very career oriented at this point in her life and had no time for the labours of caring for a dog. It could have been very easy not to care about the character but Dawson's portrayal was able to bring out the reasonable side of the character.

And not to be outdone, SYLVIA's cast was rounded out with the superb talents of Rita Ford fo Sherborn. Ford had quite a demanding role requiring her to play not one, but three distinctly different characters during the show : Tom, a very regular-Joe who owns a dog, Phyllis, a good upper-class friend of Kate's and Leslie, a psychiatrist who tries to help Greg and Kate with their marital issues. Ford was absolutely fabulous. Every movement, each character was perfectly molded and presented with the utmost sincerity, which made it all the more effective. I admit I was sore from laughter after a particular scene she had as Leslie with Sylvia, trying to get friendly with her. Truly a wonderful comedienne and actress who knows how to work a character for all its worth.

Again, Fitzgerald was also the director of the show and pulled together some very fine performances from the cast. The pace of the show was dead on and left for very little time to be distracted. Special note to a wonderful set design which was minimal but most effective, some great lighting effects and the choice of music for scene changes all made for quite an enjoyable evening. Wellesley must be very proud of their presentation and congratulations on a job well done!

"Sylvia" (14 - 16 November)
Sorenson Center for the Performing Arts, Babson College, WELLESLEY, MA
1(781) 237-8114

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