PCS Second Stage Takes THE GOAT (OR WHO IS SYLVIA?) by the Horns

by Lisa Panzer

Director Thomas-Robert Irvin, cast and crew have succeeded in mounting a deftly staged production of Edward Albee’s challenging outré examination of love, sexuality and tolerance. In this comedy infused tragedy, all starts out sparkling with an attractive, well-off liberal minded middle aged couple splendidly in love; a superb set up for disaster. Martin (Leigh Jacobs) the husband has just turned 50, is at the height of his architectural career, and has recently won a coveted prize for his work, but he appears distracted by something from deep within himself. As Stevie, his wife (Nancy Bennett), is setting their tastefully attired living room up for a television interview by his long time best friend Ross (David Owen Cashell), she teases Martin that perhaps his mental state stems from an affair with another woman. When Martin tells her the truth about Sylvia, Stevie thinks he is kidding around with her, but it turns out that he is serious. As he tells his friend Ross during their interview visit, he is tenderly in love with a guileless goat named Sylvia.

Ross, revolted by Martin’s taste in infidelities, reveals Martin’s confession to Stevie via a letter, tipping her mental and emotional scales so that confusion and fury fuse within her, unfurling in the hurling of objects, breaking of dishes and upturning of furniture, spewing forth her inner Eumenides as Martin relinquishes each detail upon her demand. Their perfect relationship is forever destroyed. This scene is spectacularly performed. Nancy Bennett takes us through her character’s furies, revealing her feelings of betrayal, disbelief, anger, sorrow and loss with aplomb, drawing up a primal scream, not from two lungs full of air, but as if from a deep well of pain. What could have been cacophonous duel between the couple was instead a duet of contrition, pain and disintegration, interspersed with a few notes of humor, which had the audience laughing out loud. Leigh Jacobs plays a subdued, troubled Martin, but he breaths fire into him as well, particularly in scenes where he butts heads with Cashell’s well described Ross, over morals and semantics, and in dealing with the hurt and anger issuing vociferously from his teenaged kid, Billy, who has recently come out, played with panache by John Taylor. Though a difficult play to keep in tempo, this terrific cast keeps its cadence clear up until the stunning conclusion.

Chock full of imagery, allegory and symbolism, plus two men bearing goatees, set in the classic Greek formula of tragedy (Etymology of tragedy: Originates from the Greek word “tragodia”, tragos “goat” + oide “song”, which literally means “goat song”), THE GOAT (OR WHO IS SYLVIA) serves to prod sensitive issues to the surface by way of the stage, leaving lots of tough questions to chew on.

Note: Profanity and adult themes are ever present in this production.

by Edward Albee
Directed by Thomas-Robert Irvin
November 14 – November 22, 2014
Players Club of Swarthmore’s Second Stage
614 Fairview Avenue
Swarthmore, PA 19081

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