The Graceland University Theatre department put on yet another fantastic play November 20-23. The play was Sylvia, by A.R. Gurney, and was directed by a guest director, David Shelton. Shelton is a professor emeritus at the University of Florida who spent time at Graceland this winter to inspire the actors and actresses of Sylvia. The unique and humorous play took place in the J.R. Theatre in the Shaw Center.
Sylvia is about the conflict between a man named Greg and his wife, Kate, when Greg brings home a dog and names her Sylvia. The play is unique because the dog is played by a human who talks to the audience and the other cast members. The comedy follows Greg and Sylvia’s adorable love story as she becomes “man’s best friend,” but when Kate begins to feel left out and jealous, Greg almost chooses Sylvia over her.
Lindsay Foster is the dog-loving actress who plays Sylvia. Her enthusiasm and portrayal of canine mannerisms like jumping on the couch or peeing on the floor had the audience crying with laughter all night. Kate’s snooty friend Phyllis, played by Rebecca Perryman, experiences the worst of Sylvia’s dog-isms when she buries her face in Phyllis’ lap. Sylvia truly resembled a dog by displaying a pup’s unconditional love for her master. She yelps to Greg, “I love you! Even when you hit me I love you!… I think you’re God!”
Spencer Bergman plays the charismatic but slightly oblivious Greg. Greg becomes a little too infatuated with Sylvia to the point that his wife feels left out and unappreciated. In the play program, Bergman insists that he loves dogs, but that he is not deranged about them the way Greg is. While walking in the dog park, Greg encounters Tom, played by Justin Pontier. Tom is a boisterous dog-lover who recommends a number of canine care books to an unimpressed Greg. Kate, Greg’s wife, is even more unimpressed.
Sarah Hamar plays Kate who was unenthusiastic about Sylvia at first, but learned to love her! She even went to see a gender ambiguous therapist named Leslie, who was played by Brayden Austin. Austin, who dressed in female clothes and spoke in a feminine tone, had the audience crying with laughter. Leslie declares that Greg is too attached to Sylvia, and that Greg sees Sylvia as a woman, not an animal. By the end of the play, Kate learns to understand Sylvia better, and Greg learns to see her for who she really is and to make his wife a priority. Sylvia was played by a human throughout the whole play, but at the end, Greg shows the audience a picture of Sylvia. The picture is of a real dog, symbolizing that Greg has finally stopped humanizing Sylvia. Once Greg started treating Sylvia like a loving pet instead of a human friend, Sylvia’s image changed to reflect his view of her.
The show was a humorous, emotional, and positive production that had the audience crying with laughter, sighing with frustration, and smiling with good feelings. Sylvia will surely be remembered as a success.