Jamie Shannon, John Moll & Janice Walter in Sylvia.
By A.R. Gurney
Directed by Angela D. Miller
Reviewed by Craig Nolan Highley
Entire Contents Copyright © 2014, Craig Nolan Highley. All rights reserved.
If you are a dog lover, you are going to love Sylvia, Louisville Repertory Company’s current production of the modern classic by A.R. Gurney. If you’re not, well, shame on you, but you may still find this to be a very entertaining show.
As soon as you walk in to The MeX Theater at Kentucky Center for the Arts, you get an impression of just what you’re in store for. A hidden projector displays images of many dogs and cats belonging to local pet-owners on the back of the set (full disclosure, someone pulled pictures of my own dog Ginsburg from my Facebook page, and he’s right up there with them!). It’s a nice touch that sets the tone right from the start. This is a story of a love triangle and midlife crisis, only one of the points of the triangle in this case is of the canine variety.
The dog in question is named Sylvia, and she’s played to the hilt by the incredible Jamie L. Shannon using only her own body language to convey the species. She has been found in the park by stockbroker Greg (John Moll), a man very discontent with the hand his life has given him and much in need of the companionship. Because just as his life is stagnating and bringing him down, his wife Kate (Janice Walter)’s career is just starting to take off.
It doesn’t take long before Sylvia drives a wedge between husband and wife; Greg loves the dog, Kate wants her gone. And while the conflicts that arise are to be expected, the resolutions they lead to are anything but predictable.
Director Angela D. Miller has put together an incredible cast of four actors (and one musician) and none of the performances ring a false note. Moll delivers Greg a very light touch, a laid-back performance that really works for the character. Walter manages to keep sympathy for Kate’s plight, no easy task for a role that I’ve seen come off very shrewish in other productions. Jared Burton is hilarious in three roles: fellow dog enthusiast John, socialite Phyllis, and therapist Leslie; he manages to disappear into each character.
But this is Shannon’s show from top to bottom. She completely inhabits her canine character to the point that when she ran into the audience and put her head on my knee, I swear I could see her tail wagging and couldn’t resist petting her!
Technical credits are also top notch for the most part; while I would have liked to have seen a little more variety between the different settings (the play takes place mostly in a New York apartment, but there are also scenes set at an airport, a therapist’s office, and in the park), the set pieces used do convey the basic needs of each scene. John Newman’s soft lighting is a very nice touch as well, and good choices were made in the music selections that play throughout.
Again, your enjoyment of the show will probably depend on your affinity for four-legged friends, but this is one of the best productions I have seen from LRC in a long time and the show is a must-see on any level!
Featuring Jared Burton, John Moll, Jordan Ramirez, Jamie L. Shannon, and Janice Walter.
May 16, 17, 19, 22, 23, & 24 at 8:00pm
May 25 at 2:00 p.m.
Tickets: $16, $11 Monday, May 19
$11 students and groups of 10 or more
www.kentuckycenter.com, 502-584-7777, or use the Kentucky Center box office and save ticketing fees!
Louisville Repertory Company
At The MeX
501 West Main Street
Louisville, KY 40202