The Words out of a Talking Dog’s Mouth

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by Kristin Hankins

At The Brookfield Theatre for the Arts, “Sylvia”, a romantic comedy directed by Maureen Trotto and written by A.R. Gurney, examines the complex nature of love between two humans and the addition of a dog into their relationship.

The cast illuminates the quirks and conundrums that transform during the course of tenure with a canine friend.

by Kristin Hankins

 


 

My date night unexpectedly turned into a working night when, on a whim, I decided I wanted my husband, Lenny, to take me to “Sylvia”, a play debuting at the The Brookfield Theatre for the Arts. I knew it was about a dog and a married couple, but those were the only two pieces of information I had before entering the show. I was pleasantly surprised and delighted by the array of entertainment and pleasure the “Sylvia” cast presented for the audience.

The romantic comedy, directed by Maureen Trotto and written by A.R. Gurney, examines the complex nature of love between two humans and the addition of a dog into their relationship. The cast illuminates the quirks and conundrums that transform during the course of tenure with a canine friend.

The stage was set with thoughtful props, such as the background, which was a semi-translucent piece of material that changed from city-scape to the inside walls of a New York City apartment. As the play unfolded, small touches of dog statues were added, which reinforced the presence of Sylvia, the couple’s dog. Additionally, there were scenes that took place at a dog park, in which the beauty a person can find in a city, sans the barking of the dogs, stood out.

The audience is first introduced to Sylvia and Greg inside Greg and Kate’s apartment. The scene begins with the actress who plays Sylvia the dog, Kristin Hoose, bounding into the space, sniffing the air, checking out the perimeter and testing her boundaries. Greg the middle-aged guardian, played by Matt McQuail, sets limits about the couch with a light tap of a rolled up newspaper. The audience filled with laughter. Then the dialog between Greg and Sylvia begins, which seems exactly what you would expect if our mongrel companions learned to communicate with words.

 

 

Kristin Hoose steals the show in her absolute immersion as Sylvia the dog. She nails the mannerisms, the enthusiasm, as well as the tones of what words would come out of a talking dog’s mouth.


 

The costumes chosen for the characters were also very fitting. Kate, a New York inner city English teacher, played by Meg Jones, was adorned with flowing scarves and conservative dress. Greg wore a typical power player corporate uniform. He really had the dress and attitude of someone emerging from one part of life and into another.

Sylvia was spot on. There were no dog costumes (thank goodness!); it was more of an array of what will she wear next and where can I get those shoes! Although Sylvia is part or mostly poodle, she never wears a poodle skirt; this is a kindness for the audience, as wearing a skirt like that would take away from the character.

One example of Sylvia’s spot on dressing came in a scene in which she is in heat. She wears a red and black layered tool skirt, in contrast to when she comes home for the first time in a scrappy yet comfortable number. My favorite parts of Hoose’s costume were both her pigtails to represent her ears and the heart dog tag with the name Sylvia on it.

Meg Jones’ character, Kate, is played very well. She opposed the addition of Sylvia to the relationship, and forms all sorts of jealousies towards the dog. She played her part so well that not once during her arguments for finding Sylvia a new home did I feel any ill will towards her character.

 

 

There were no dog costumes (thank goodness!); it was more of an array of what will she wear next and where can I get those shoes!

 

 

McQuail does a fantastic job winning both the audience and Kate over, all for the well-being of Sylvia. Actress Beth Young contributes with three different characters of different genders. Tom is a bit unlikeable, Phyllis is a NYC socialite afraid of dogs and aquariums, but Leslie takes the cake, even admitting the androgyny of the character. Howver, Kristin Hoose still steals the show in her absolute immersion as Sylvia the dog. She nails the mannerisms, the enthusiasm, as well as the tones of what words would come out of a talking dog’s mouth.

I was a little disappointed with all of the profanities spoken through the play (with the exception of an incident that involved a cat). It felt like it cheapened the dialog, especially with the array of tributes to famous playwrights such as Shakespeare and Homer. I also felt a bit of hesitation when Greg’s character praised and patted Sylvia. But the anatomy of a woman is clearly different from a dog.

Overall it was a wonderful experience and night out. I was completely entertained and immersed into the chapters of life that were played out. Life could only be better if our dogs could come and hang out with us as Sylvia does in the play.

I strongly encourage your own experience at the TBTA, especially with the production of “Sylvia”. Remaining shows are as follows: May 6, 7, 13 & 14 all at 8pm. There will also be a Mother’s Day matinee at 2pm. Ticket prices are between $15 and $20 dollars. The Brookfield Theatre for the Arts is located at 182 Whisconier Road in Brookfield. For more information and a preview video, visit: BrookfieldTheatre.org.

 

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