BWW Review: THE GOAT OR WHO IS SYLVIA? at Interrobang Theatre Project
Things aren't always as they seem. Even the most picture perfect family has their issues. And sometimes those issues are beyond comprehension. The revelation of secrets can impact dynamics, emotions, and perceptions. Edward Albee's Tony Award-winning, THE GOAT, OR WHO IS SYLVIA?, currently in production by Interrobang Theatre Project, focuses on the ramifications of such revelations.
Albee is a master of leaving audiences with questions, but in doing so, promoting conversation and internal debate. This piece is certainly no exception. In fact, with each explanation, the audience is faced with more to question. It's what keeps this complex 90-minute tale fascinating at every turn.
As Martin (Tom Jansson) turns 50, he has just received another award in his accomplished architecture career. We meet him in his impeccable suburban home as he and his wife, Stevie (Elana Elyce), engage in witty banter about his special day and recent achievements. Martin is then interviewed about his success by his friend, Ross (Armando Reyes), a television talk show host. As they break down the details of his achievements, they wander into the territory of relationships - specifically marriage and affairs. We learn that Martin has a regular companion, with whom he is not only sexually involved but has also fallen for as well. Her name is Sylvia. And she is a goat.
Ross shares his complete outrage with Martin and soon shares Martin's secret with Stevie. What follows is Stevie's confrontation with Martin and their son Billy's (Ryan Liddell) reaction to the news. Billy is baffled that his own father, who struggles with his son's homosexuality, could be living this life. The layers are peeled away as Stevie tries to comprehend this new reality.
Albee lets us make of it what we will, but uses an absurd situation to have us look at our own hypocrisy. He does a deep dive into the complexities of sexuality, love, and lust. Stevie is outraged that the man who finds her appealing, feels the same way about a four-legged creature. As she tears the living room apart, and as Billy grapples with his confused feelings, we are witness to the pain that comes from acting on impulse out of desire.
Jansson's portrayal of Martin is steady and earnest. He's best when painting the picture of meeting Sylvia and when he attempts to use humor to shift difficult conversations. Elyce handles the challenging role of Stevie with sincere conviction and never falters even when the harshest daggers are flung her way. She expertly portrays an enviable strength and painful heartache. As Billy, Liddell finely conveys the angst of a privileged teen who is falling out of societal norms and is facing a world turned upside down. Reyes shares some nice moments with Jansson as the first confidant to be privy to crucial plot points.
Though a few early moments lack a bit of steam, the pacing picks up as the bombshell is dropped and then it never fades. Director James Yost uses every inch of The Rivendell stage giving us captivating pictures of this family in turmoil. Yost wisely has his actors finding their corners like boxers in a prize fight, then coming out when the bell rings to take down their opponent.
A gorgeous set by Kerry Lee Chipman perfectly aligns with the initial image we have of this family. Melanie Hatch needs to be given credit for her magnificent property design and what must be incredibly challenging upkeep due to Stevie's wrath.
Like Albee himself, Interrobang Theatre Project does not shy away from taking on challenging concepts. This show comes in a long line of intriguing choices and well-executed productions that closely examine our humanity. Interrobang is the perfect storefront company to tackle this story and has done so with impressive expertise.
THE GOAT, OR WHO IS SYLVIA? runs through October 6 at Rivendell Theatre, 5779 N. Ridge Ave., Chicago. Single tickets and season passes are currently available at www.interrobangtheatre.org or by calling (312) 219-4140. The show runs 90 minutes with no intermission.