Arlington — What nature has put together let no woman tear asunder. These are the words of wisdom that explain why a dog truly is a man’s best friend.
Take the play Sylvia, written by A.R Gurney and directed by Sharon Kaye Miller for Theatre Arlington. Kate and Greg are husband and wife living in Manhattan who have been married for 22 years. Greg is getting fed up with his job at the same time that Kate’s career is taking off as an English teacher. Almost divine intervention ensues as Greg finds a dog with a collar only reading “Sylvia” at what seems to be just the right time. While Greg has found his new meaning in life as a companion to Sylvia, Kate is left feeling like the other woman and is envious of their relationship from the start.
Jenna Anderson’s Sylvia is a hyper, sassy, sexual innuendo-spewing mess … and the audience loves every second of it. Anderson’s performance is the definition of personification. If you have ever wondered what’s going through your pup’s head, see Anderson’s Sylvia and take it in. Whether it’s cursing out a cat, or trying to get some action while in heat, Anderson doesn’t hold back.
The combination of Anderson’s Sylvia and Steven D. Morris’ Greg are a match made in doggie heaven. Morris, a seasoned vet having performed more than 60 shows at Theatre Arlington, is the perfect match to go tit for tat with the lively Sylvia. Due in part to the particularly creative movement by Sharon Kaye Miller, the two actors both shine in their own ways while sharing the stage. Morris matches Anderson’s energy, which stays at a 10 from start to finish.
In a play with only four actors, Micah Green steals the show every time he is onstage. Playing three characters (Tom, Leslie and Phyllis), his spot-on mannerisms make for a hilarious supporting character as he switches between genders and accents. Green was the first actor to come out for a bow and received an immediate standing ovation at the performance reviewed.
Providing the needed “dramatic relief”—there’s plenty of comedy from the other characters—is Laurie Long’s portrayal of Kate, the voice of reason. Long holds her own amongst the commotion of the three other actors. She provides a different tone and pace, and helps the audience get in tune with the more somber feelings needed to understand Kate’s point of view. She has the audience sympathizing with her as we see her getting pushed aside for Sylvia. Long does have her own signature comedic style found when the character quotes Shakespeare. Sounds about right for an English teacher.
Anthony Curtis’s set design is clean and minimal, offering a clear picture of the show without distracting from performances. The actors also do a fine job of painting a picture of what the audience is supposed to be seeing, adding to the overall effect. The same can be said for the Janice Pennington’s costumes. Greg transforms from his suits and slacks to Hawaiian shirts to take Sylvia to the park while he skips work. Kate has a very professional look that matches that aspect of her personality. Sylvia’s costumes are clever, consisting of mostly sweaters and jean shorts; the sweaters fluctuate in hairiness as she gets groomed and grows out her fur.
Gurney’s comedy takes the audience on an engaging emotional journey of insight into marital problems and mid-life crises. The characters’ complicated relationships demonstrate how we can project our needs onto the people or animals around us to fill the voids in our life. At times, it feels like you can hear Sarah McLachlan’s “Angel (from the ASPCA commercial) playing, and at other times you want to get up and play fetch with Sylvia.
Theatre Arlington is also doing a fantastic public service. Before the show begins and at intermission there is a slideshow of dogs that are available to adopt at the Arlington Animal Shelter.