AISLE SAY: SYLVIA is a Howl at DE Theatre Co.

by Greer Firestone

Man’s love of his four footed pooch knows no boundaries, at least in the mind of renown playwright A. R. Gurney. Greg (Kurt Zischke) and wife Kate (Hollis McCarthy) are empty nesters. Greg is suffering through an insufferable mid-life crisis. He encounters a stray dog Sylvia (Maggie Lakis) in the park and the bond the two acquire is a Gordian knot that the pragmatic Kate cannot sever.

Hollis McCarthy (Kate) and Maggie Lakis (Sylvia) face off in a scene from Delaware Theatre Company's SYLVIA, running in Wilmington through November 7.

It’s a comedy that explains in human terms just what and how your dog would be responding to you if the mutt could do more than whimper and bark and lick and growl. In the first act, when Greg brings Sylvia to the NYC apartment, he asks her, “Did you just pee on the rug?” Sylvia says, “Greg, I won’t dignify that with an answer!”

Greg is totally mesmerized by this cuddly lap dog and sighs, “Oh, Sylvia, I would just love to know about your former owner.” Replies a droll Sylvia, “Oh, come on, all present owners want to know that!”

Exclaimed an animated Delaware Theatre patron at intermission, “Yes, that’s exactly what (insert name of his dog) would say to me. I know it!. My dog is just like Sylvia!”

Director David Stradley keeps action and movement at a pretty pace. Employing a unit set, he and Lighting Designer Shelley Hicklin devise a creative way to change scenes through the apartment windows.

Lakis plays a cuddly and charismatic canine. We have no reason to believe she is anything but a dog. Her physical action; cavorting around the apartment, lifting her leg between the legs of an embarrassed guest, scratching, etc, was just enough to give us the impression of doggie behavior.

At times we thought Zischke’s Greg so shallow and excruciatingly self centered. Choosing a dog over his wife? At other times we heard him as as The Everyman of mid life depression. Zischke reached down in his soul and got through to us.

Aisle Say hoped that McCarthy’s Kate would simply go off the deep end and grab and shake her husband. Gurney did not write it that way. Through her eyes we saw her rage and her pain and perhaps that was sufficient.

The comic award goes to multi-talented and cross-dressed David Jadico. Aisle Say has previously enjoyed his mayhem in Philadelphia theatre. Playing three roles, his scene as Phyllis boosted the energy of Act I. One could not take their eyes off his over the top drag queen mannerisms.

The actors are better than the script. The play was disjunctive, the playwright stuffing incongruous bits of dialogue that did not progress the action. Why the Cole Porter tune sung as a threesome? Why the Shakespearean tidbits from Kate said directly to the audience? (The only time in the production where the fourth veil was pierced). And even Stevie Wonder could see the final resolution coming a mile away…and it was too doggoned schmaltzy.

SYLVIA was a promising beginning to DTC’s 32nd season. The production was done several years ago. It’s finally time to consider euthanasia. Next up is AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DAYS.

by A.R. Gurney
Directed by David Stradley
October 20 – November 7, 2010
Delaware Theatre Company
200 Water Street
Wilmington DE 19801

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