by A R Gurney
When middle-aged Greg brings a stray dog back home from the park, wife Kate does not approve. Now that the children have left home they surely need to enjoy their freedom. A dog is a responsibility they could well do without. Greg, however, does not see things this way. He is totally besotted with the dog and even leaves work so that he can spend more time with her. Is this Greg's way of filling that space left by the now departed children or is it something more instinctive and fundemental? Whatever the reason, the effect on the marriage is disastrous. To save the marriage, the dog, Sylvia, must go.
This is a wonderfully perceptive comedy. When it opened on Broadway in 1995 the critic of the New York Daily News wrote: "The most involving, beautiful, funny, touching and profound play I have ever seen".
Cast and Crew
Director: Dave Baldwin
|Stage Manager||Richard Worreall|
|Sound & Lighting||Charles Wintour|
|Costume and Props||Stella Truscott|
Dates and Venues
Carol Mayes in The Woolhope Herald. Summer 2010
"SYLVIA" ATt THE PARISH HALL. April 2010
Who is Sylvia, what is she? Well the answer to that question is ‘she’s a
dog' and a much loved one at that.
Bare Bones theatre company brought a revelation to the stage of Woolhope
Parish hall with the play by A R Gurney which at iirst puzzled then mesmerized
it's audience. For those of you not there let me paint for you the surreal picture of
a man and woman entering a New York flat and the woman scrabbling around
from point to point, half stooped and snutlling like some strange creature released
into 'care in the community'. The man tells the woman to sit and she eventually sits,
on the floor. When the man's wife enters, the seated woman leaps up calling in a
dog-like yelp of ’hey, hey, hey.' Only then as the wife comments on why the man
has brought a 'Dawg' home do you realise that Jane Jones as the eponymous
'Sylvia' has set such a realistic scene of a dog in a strange environment that you
have been sucked into a whole new world.
This world of blind love and conflict was explored most effectively by the actors
of the company. Jane Jones' gestures and movements captured wholeheartedly
the uncritical and loving devotion of a dog rescued from the street, while Tony
Hearn as Greg, her new master, was almost as blindly devoted in retum. His
performance was sympathetic to the often mocked figure of a man in mid-life
crisis and his skill in ad-libbing at difficult moments encouraged the audience
to laugh with the cast rather than at any small teclmical difficulties.
And laugh is what we did, at the wonderful presentation of human foibles and
weaknesses seen with clarity through the eyes of Jane Jones' warm and honest
dog from the streets, 'fleas and all'!
Amanda Watkins as Kate, Greg's Wife was a strong contrast to the blindly devoted
dog & owner couple. She presented a nicely balanced astringency to the proceedings
which helped to expose the true difficulties of the conflicts of a love triangle.
The two jealous females in Greg's life sparked off one another to hilarious results
and we wondered where it would all end. For a while we feared the disintegration
of both the marital relationship and Greg's mental faculties!
Tom, another dog owner Greg meets in the park, warns him of impending doom.
Tom was played by Gordon Stewart with a lovely sense of knowing wisdom and
a fine ability to create off—stage scenes for the audience through eye direction
and facial expression. When Greg and Tom are witness to Sylvia's 'downfall' in
the park, their faces mirrored the events to perfection. Jane/Sylvia's return
complemented this so well both in movement and gesture that the house rocked
The smaller roles of Phylis, Kate's friend and Leslie, the 'Analyst' were played to
excellent effect by Jeanette Bennett and Margaret Baldwin respectively. Phylis's
disintegration, on realising the full disaster in her friend's life, captured the fragile
neuroses of ’Big city life' to perfection. Likewise, Leslie the analyst's superior
assumptions of understanding were soon demolished and Margaret Baldwin's
timing worked to perfection in achieving the humorous downfall of the pompous
As the play drew to its end, Tony Hearn and Amanda Watkins achieved that
rare thing, a denouement of sensibility without crass overworked sentiment.
Their interaction as a couple, struggling to cope with stress and overcoming it,
was finely judged and brought a well devised play to an effective ending.