SYLVIAWritten By A. R. Gurney
Lakeside Community Theatre
Sylvia – ROBIN CLAYTON
Greg – BRIAN HOFFMAN
Kate – SHERRI SMALL
Tom/Phyllis/Leslie – JORGE MARTIN LARA
Director/Sound Design – NEALE WHITMORE
Stage Manager/Property Design – ELISE KNOX
Scenic Design – RUSTIN ROLEN
Lighting Design – NEALE WHITMORE & JERI TELEZ
Light/Sound Board Operator – PAUL KEYES
Costume & Hair Design – THE CAST
Reviewed Performance: 11/3/2018
Reviewed by Travis McCallum, Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN
Joyfully he calls out “Sylvia” to the roaming creature and it quickly bounces in bountiful ecstasy to the older fellow. One giant hug followed with audible squeaks: I love you I love you. Then: Down Sylvia, down.
Ah, this context instantly clicks with the audience. This relationship between man and dog we understand all too well. Sylvia is the story about man’s best friend and woman’s worst enemy. I am not a dog owner myself, yet this wonderful play caught my attention as an exquisite gem hidden at Lakeside Community Theatre.
Sylvia explores the many challenges and joys of pet ownership with an extreme zany twist, tied with some philosophical discussion on just how deep a bond goes. Cleaning up pee, fighting over furniture rules, being in heat, dislike of cats, and chewing items lay the groundwork of daily struggles in the pet world.
Husband Greg (Brian Hoffman) wants to keep Sylvia (Robin Clayton) because she touches him in a way he’s never been touched. She brings out his primal instincts. But she is also ruining Greg’s marriage to his wife of 20+ years, the English teacher Kate (Sherri Small).
I have never seen a human play a dog on stage before, and is it something else! Sylvia hits you hard right away with an intense energy setting the pace for the rest of the show. She’s over affectionate, infectious with eternal optimism, and has no qualms spreading herself all over the place.
I absolutely love how invested Sylvia is invested in her character. She mimics dog behavior amazingly. From the way she stretches her muscles and bends her body in canine positions, I appreciate the attention to detail she gives to her dog character.
I’m not sure how the warped distortion between human and dog speech work, but Sylvia actually has conversations with both Greg and Kate and they understand each other! To differentiate from her normal speech, Sylvia yaps “Hey! Hey! Hey!” whenever she gets excited.
She isn’t high energy all show. Some nice contrasts happen at the park where Greg goes off on some monologues that put Sylvia to sleep. And after she gets fixed, Sylvia becomes a sickly child who comically can’t walk properly. Her vain attempts to appeal to Kate are a few of the mellow signs of restraint we glimpse.
Kate is sadly marked as the villain of the show and I feel bad for her because I really wanted to like her. She does not want Sylvia and comes up with all logical excuses to get rid of her. Kate is certainly a logical woman, but over the play emotions of anger and rage boil until they erupt into an ugly matriarch of wild hysteria.
Indeed, she plays the dominant and rather vocal player in the marriage. Quick to communicate her opinion on a subject, we can’t help but pity Kate when Greg repeatedly changes topics or outright ignores her pleas. She constantly tries to mend the dire situation, even resorting to marriage counseling which Greg routinely skips out on.
Greg is so pre-occupied with rediscovering himself through Sylvia, he completely disregards his wife. He reminds me of a lighter version of Santa Claus. The man is jolly, what can I say? He also spaces out a lot and might be a tad crazy. As his buddy at the dog park says, maybe he should visit a psychiatrist.
Speaking of dog buddies, Jorge Martin Lara plays Tom, the dog owner of Bowser, one of Sylvia’s lovers. A typical New Yorker, he speaks with an accent and I swear he chews bubble gum. I really love all 3 of the characters Lara played throughout the show, including Phyllis.
Phyllis is the friend of Kate who visits the apartment and is humped by Sylvia many times…
It’s always funny to watch a man dress up as a woman in a play, and Phyllis milked the comedy. The man is already like 6 feet tall and when he wore those heels, he might as well be Le Bron James or Andre the Giant with lipstick and mascara to boot.
I like how Lara changed accents between characters, thought I felt his Phyllis and Leslie sounded similar. Leslie was the marriage counselor who did therapy sessions with the troubled couple.
From a technical perspective, I really enjoyed the ambience of the set and costumes. Everything meshed well together for a final production. Scenes took place either in the house or off to the sides. The side designs were simple and easily got the point across. The dog park had fake grass with a park bench, while the marriage counselor/taxi scenes had a two-chair setup.
I appreciated that all set and prop pieces had a purpose throughout the show. The desk in the back represented Kate’s teaching world. The green curtains next to that gave Sylvia a spot to go bark when someone approached the door.
Sound design had nice elements to lend to the mood. Dogs barking in the background during the park scenes. Wonderful soundtrack classics like Louse Armstrong’s “What a Wonderful World” made sense in the story arcs that unfold.
No fault of the actors, but there was a terrible storm that passed by throughout the show. For a solid 25 minutes I could barely hear what they were saying because the rain was deafening. What I applaud everyone for is staying in character and going on with the show. It takes a LOT of concentration and discipline to work through crazy weather and I commend each of them for their hard work.
Light design was nice. 2 whites illuminated most of the focal areas, with 6 green reds cycling through various moods. Notable is the night scene with its moonlight interpretation.
I was surprised to see costumes were designed by the actors themselves because they were all done so well, especially Sylvia’s. With such a metaphorical way to play a dog as a human, how does one dress the way a dog would look? In her case, Clayton opted for a red sweater with faded blue shorts filled with holes and black short boots.
Two cool bits Artistic Director Dave introduced was a $1 raffle for some cool prizes. You could also enter the raffle by liking the facebook page. I appreciate when theatre’s give an incentive to audience members for donating. The second thing I liked was the blanket offer. Dave said the theatre gets cold, and complementary blankets were available for anyone. I can attest that it does get cold at Lakeside Community Theatre!
Dog lover. Dog hater. Dog owner. Not dog owner. This show is for everyone and I promise Lakeside Community Theatre is a hidden gem in the DFW theatre community. I smiled and cheered. I hope you will too.
Lakeside Community Theatre
November 2 through November 17, 2018
Lakeside Community Theatre
6303 Main St
The Colony, TX 75056
For more information and tickets call 214-801-4869 or go to https://buy.ticketstothecity.com/purchase.php?event_id=6500