sylviaThe Theatre Factory production of A.R. Gurney ‘s Sylvia is a charming and funny story of a man, his wife, and the love triangle their new dog Sylvia creates.

It’s the early 1990’s, and Greg and Kate have just moved to Manhattan. His career is winding down, and hers is presenting exciting opportunities for the future.  Greg has found a stray dog in the park and brought her home. There is no information on her collar other than the name Sylvia. At Greg’s insistence, they decided to keep her.

Eventually, Greg becomes utterly obsessed with Sylvia which leads Kate to fear their marriage is falling apart. Sylvia, on the other hand, feels that Kate doesn’t understand what a relationship between a man and a dog should be.

Pitt graduate Claire Sabatine charmingly captures the essence of a dog in this physically challenging role. Most of the time she is on all fours with the behaviors and expressions which endear and exasperate us about our dogs.  Director Jeff Johnson lets Sabatine subtly morph Sylvia into a more human upright form for those discussions about love, commitment and compromise.

Costume Designer Maria Bruno dresses Sabatine in a simple light brown jumper with yellow leggings with matching the top and like-colored gloves. The decision to not put her in “a dog costume” is a meaningful one.  Sylvia becomes the object that reflects the mid-life crisis men often go through as retirement nears; the kids have grown up, and they begin to see that the light at the end of the tunnel that ultimately goes dark. Sylvia could represent a sports car, a sailboat or an affair with another human instead of a pet.

Sabatine delivers a deliciously adorable Sylvia who loves her human while at the same time looks out for her well-being and some old-fashioned dog fun.

Art DeConciliis is perfect as Greg. We see him struggle with his career while he enjoys his new-found love both for Sylvia and the adventures they share together. There are hysterically funny scenes when he and Sylvia are out for their walks, and she comes across a cat or male dogs.

Jennifer Chervenick’s Kate is a strong, no-nonsense woman. Kate is having her post baby bloom as an educator now that their nest is empty. The portrayal of her and Greg’s relationship comes across as believable. They are a couple with a bond forged over many years who struggle with the next chapter of their lives, and Sylvia’s intrusion into it. “Sylvia has taken a serious bite out of our 22-year marriage.”

Another dimension to the story is provided Terry Westwood, who plays multiple characters. Tom who is a macho fellow dog owner, Phyllis Kate’s old college friend, confidant and longtime New Yorker and Leslie, a gender neutral psychologist who tries to help Kate and Greg come to terms with their marriage. Westwood handles the gender diversity of these characters with humor and ease.

The cast of experienced actors from our area under Jeff Johnston’s direction makes Sylvia a funny and touching adventure worth making the trip to the Theatre Factory in Trafford.

If all dogs were as smart and endearing as Sabatine’s Sylvia, there would be no dogs in shelters looking for homes.

Sylvia is at the Theatre Factory in Trafford with performances February 16th to 25th. Thursday through Saturday at 8:00 pm and Sunday Matinees are at 2:00 pm. For tickets visit http://www.thetheatrefactory.org/tickets/

Thanks to the Theatre Factory for the complimentary tickets.

Categories: Archived Reviews

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