Review: The Goat, or Who is Sylvia? (Atic Productions)

Love, goats and Edward Albee at Tarragon Theatre’s Extra Space in Toronto.

The play, I told my friend, is about a guy who falls in love with a goat.

He smiled in an amused way.

And feeling a need to qualify the premise as earnest, I added that the play – titled The Goat, or Who is Sylvia? which runs until June 24th at Tarragon’s Extra Space – had won two awards that are usually taken quite seriously.

Maybe a more persuasive qualifier than that though, and doubtless one better suited to a review utilizing hyperlinks, is mentioning Edward Albee as the playwright.

In the theatre world, Mr. Albee is revered for illustrating the cruel and unusual in love.

Who’s Afraid Of Virginia Woolf, for example, has a couple verbally bludgeon one another as foreplay.

In The Zoo Story, Mr. Albee has a character compare the epic abuse and intimidation between himself and a dog, to the nature of loving.

But unlike Who’s Afraid Of Virginia Woolf? and The Zoo Story, which both seem vaguely realistic – the latter, for example, is an encounter in Central Park – The Goat, or Who is Sylvia? dispenses with the convention of realism almost completely.

At least this was my impression, beginning with Alain Luc-Richer’s set.

Mr. Luc-Richler’s design features Parthenon-like columns. They form a gently curving line along the back of the stage.

And the opening scene of The Goat, or Who is Sylvia? introduces the characters in only the most superficial way.

There’s Martin, played by Tim Walker, who tells us repeatedly that he has just turned forty, and is a big shot architect.

There’s Stevie, played by Rosemary Doyle, his wife.

Rounding out the quartet of characters is Ross, Martin’s best friend, played by Benjamin Blais,; and Billy, Martin and Stevie’s son, played by Ben Hayward.

The irritatingly expository exchanges in scene one, including an interview between Ross and Martin, are forgivable though.

My experience with Mr. Albee’s other works suggested that there was good stuff to come.

In the two scenes that follow, first Stevie, then Billy, then Ross, excoriate Martin for his behavior.

Watching the play, with strong performances all around, was an absolute delight.

My friend was a bit more tepid on Mr. Walker’s performance, citing a limited range of emotions on display.

The best payoff though was that it gave my friend and I a lot to discuss after. And, by my measure, that’s what makes good theatre, good theatre.

 

Details

The Goat, or Who is Sylvia? is playing at Tarragon’s Extra Space (30 Brigdman) until June 24th
– Remaining performances are at 8:00 on Saturday, and 2:30 on Sunday afternoon
– Tickets are $25.oo;
– Tickets can be purchased at the door or by phone 416-531-1827
– For more information, please see aticproductions.com

Photo: Ben Haywood as Billy (left), and Tim Walker as Martin (right) in The Goat, or Who is Sylvia?