Wednesday, August 7, 2013

SVSU's "Sylvia" finds a dog outwitted by an actor in three roles

A man and his doting dog (Isaac Wood and Cassidy Morey) in "Sylvia"

review and photos by janet i. martineau

So, the play “Sylvia” is about a who talks to her owner and he to her in human words,  one who gets really agitated and profane when a cat crosses her path, and one who hates that “roll over” trick command.

And you know what they say about sharing a stage with kids or dogs.

Well, not always.

In the Saginaw Valley State University production of  the A.R. Gurney play, deftly directed by Tommy Wedge and running 7:30pm Wednesday through Friday (Aug. 7-9), watch out for scene-stealer Jordan Stafford in a triple role.

He’s Tom, the streetwise macho man who ain’t gonna neuter his male dog NO WAY....he’s Phyllis, a very pregnant and refined visitor subjected to embarrassing sniffs and mounts via Sylvia...and he’s Leslie, the lisping therapist who takes great pride in making people wonder, male or female?

Stafford NAILS all three personas. Just nails them. In particular playing the he/she? Leslie right down the middle. He has the female walk and talk and sit down pat as Phyllis. And Tom swaggers from one side of the stage to the next, and smiles with cocky pride as his dog and Sylvia get it on (out of view of the audience, but the expressions on Stafford’s face tell the story).

But such praise does not diminish the rest of the cast -- Cassidy Morey as the talking dog, Isaac Wood as Sylvia’s smitten owner Greg, and Lexee Longwell as Greg’s dog-hating wife, Kate.

Greg and Kate have been married 22 years. His career is faltering. Hers on the rise. And when he brings the flea-ridden stray he found in a park home to stay, Kate is not amused (and often refers to Sylvia as saliva). 

Sylvia "rolls over" as Lexee Longwell and Jordan Stafford watch
Morey is wonderfully expressive, and physical, as Sylvia -- her movements just canine enough to convince but not over the top. 

She clings to Greg, pees on the floor, shouts hey hey in place of bark bark, pulls on her leash, rolls over with resignation, defies Kate when it comes to sitting on the couch, snores, and a million other doggie things that will bring smiles to audience members who have dogs.

And let’s face it....we all wonder what our dogs are thinking. Well, in this play Morey answers that question in a myriad of ways with a myriad of voice inflections punctuating Gurney’s words.

Longwell and Wood have the thankless roles as the straight guys to Morey and Stafford.

But they also bring the  “moral of the story” into a sharp and emotional focus.

Gurney’s play is a comedy yes. But it also speaks volumes about relationships, with humans and our canine friends. Greg and Kate evolve as a couple in its two hours, and Longwell and Wood make that totally convincing.

Longwell, Wood and Morey also sing “Everytime We Say Goodbye” as a trio and with the lyrics having different meanings for each. It is one of the emotional highlights.

Added on to that, Gurney has penned a literate play, with references to Shakespeare, Homer and a movie or two that adds to the fun. And it also has much to say about how a pet can help liberate a person.

Great show with great direction and a great cast.

For more pictures from the play: 

1 comment:

  1. Another glowing review/press release for svsu theatre. Do they have you on payroll now or something?