BWW Review: SYLVIA at Theatre Harrisburg
Sylvia, a story about a man and his dog...and his wife, was written by A.R. Gurney and found its way to the stage off-Broadway at Stage I of the Manhattan Theatre Club in 1995. The 1995 production starred Sarah Jessica Parker as Sylvia. In 2015, it finally appeared at Broadway's Cort Theatre, but had a limited run.
The play features a dog named Sylvia and empty-nesters Greg and Kate. There are also three characters-Tom, another dog owner; Phyllis, a family friend; and Leslie, a therapist-who are traditionally played by one actor. At its surface, Sylvia may seem like a simple comedy about a dog, but at its heart Sylvia is a profound exploration of the human condition-our need and desire to feel connected to someone or something, our struggle to find the mystery in the ordinary, and our endeavor to feel productive. This funny, beautiful, and touching show can be seen on stage at Theatre Harrisburg through June 23rd, and it is a production you do not want to miss.
The simple set and lighting allow the audience to focus on the characters and the story. We first meet Greg, an average guy who loves his wife but hates his job. Greg is going through a bit of a mid-life crisis, trying to redefine his purpose and get back to basics. He is longing for connection, and he finds it when he meets Sylvia. Greg is played by Matt Thomsen. Thomsen plays the role with great authenticity. He is easy to relate to as he talks about his frustrations with his job and as he expresses his love and enthusiasm for Sylvia. Thomsen's performance is filled with subtle expressions of emotion that really make Greg seem like a real person.
Greg's wife, Kate, is portrayed by Eileen Daub. Kate is an intelligent, ambitious woman who finds her purpose in life after raising children in teaching Shakespeare. Daub's Kate is cultured, precise, controlled, and independent. She is a complicated character because even though she tries to be in control of her emotions, her irritation and anger directed toward Sylvia and Greg break through, bringing the plot of the show to its climax. Daub handles Kate's complexity so well that even when the audience doesn't want to like her because of her dislike for the dog, they can understand and empathize with how she is feeling.
Curtis Mittong takes on the challenge of Tom/Phyllis/Leslie, three very different characters that not only heighten the comedy but also illuminate important things about Greg and Kate and their relationship. Mittong is fantastic in all three roles. He changes not only his voice and costume for each character, but also embodies them in his posture, mannerisms, facial expressions, and gestures.
Lyndsey Hadary rounds out the cast as the title character Sylvia. From her very first entrance, Hadary adopts the mannerisms and attitudes of a dog. It is one of the best examples I have ever seen of a human playing the part of an animal. From panting to tail wagging to ear scratching to smelling interesting smells, Hadary convinces the audience that she is in fact a mutt named Sylvia. Hadary's interactions with the other characters on stage are well thought out and genuine.
There are so many extraordinary scenes in this production of Sylvia, you really just have to see it for yourself. The cast and crew of Theatre Harrisburg's Sylvia deserve a huge round of applause. And don't forget, Theatre Harrisburg has teamed up with PA Boxer Rescue to spread the word about furry friends looking for a home. It was a joy to meet 10-year-old Cherokee, who is up for adoption, at opening night! If you're looking for a fun show that will make you laugh and think, Theatre Harrisburg's Sylvia is just the ticket. Speaking of tickets, you'd better order yours today before it is too late. Visit www.theatreharrisburg.com to reserve your spot.